Thursday, November 24, 2011

the MILF story

I'm shockingly ignorant. It appears everyone knows this term but me. Even my daughter (I've heard tell) has referred to someone as MILFy. Not in front of me of course, but I have it on good authority.

So. I was away for the weekend down the road from Asilomar with a friend. Long walks. Books to read. More long walks. Papers to avoid grading. Paper to write for the Anthropology meetings in Montréal. Scrabble. Birthday (hers) dinner. More long walks.

We had a nice dull time of it. Didn't even go on pilgrimage down to Big Sur. Not even Carmel. And only once to Monterey. And that's what we were there to do: nothing.

But after a while, nothing needs a little help.

The traditional nothing to do is, of course TV and the movies. And there was a big screen in the room. The typical number of choices: never enough. Never what you're looking for. Never what you feel like watching.

The point being, really, that we didn't agree on what to watch. But it was either TV or grade more papers. Or play more Scrabble. Or—

I suggested it.

She, of course, was horrified.

Being an anthropologist, you can justify just about anything as research.  So. Call it research rather than utter boredom or avoidance of work. But I took over the remote and checked out the Adult Movie Selections.

And it was nothing but MILF.

I mean, what the hell was that?  The teaser pictures on each selection was not any help in trying to figure it out.

Did M stand for 'male' and F stand for 'female'?  If so, I tried to work out what the letters in-between might mean.

Male Israeli Lebanese Female?

That's all I could come up with. Okay, that would be my mind not in keeping with the American wet dream. We were both completely mystified.

But wait!  I had my computer with me. The computer I was working on to finish up the conference paper.

"Don't use that!" she said. "You could end up with a virus on your computer!"

Yikes. A sexually transmitted disease attacking my computer? That would be a bad thing.

I picked up my iPhone instead.  Somehow feeling that Apple would protect the sacred little hand job object. And I looked up MILF.

No way. No possible way. No, no, no, no NO!

It just didn't seem possible.  Every porn site in a mainstream coastal 'resort' was MILF?  That was the part that got me.  The category just went on and on and on on the TV in our room—and there weren't any other choices.

We watched Helen Mirren do tough-old-ganster in something unforgettable.

But at least it wasn't another Scrabble game.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

OMG, I'm just like my mother!!

I'm looking for one of those little yellow faces that shows absolute horror, but couldn't find one to express today's just plain awful epiphany.  And yah, every once in a while a friend (or daughter) will tell me I'm just like my mother. And I always chalk it up to that they're pissed about something. Usually about not getting their way about something.  But no, apparently that's not it. Or that's not all of it.

Today I discovered that my friends (and daughter) were being descriptive.  I am like my mother. I could see it today.

I almost cracked up the car when I I finally got it. I was driving. I was driving my mom. And I took a different route back to her house, trying to make the way more familiar, because she's been losing her way of late.

When we got to College Ave things started to look familiar to her.

"That nail salon," she said. "They're unclean. They give you fungus."

I shuddered.

"That bookstore," she said. "They don't have high quality books. I don't go there."

She commented on just about every business we passed. The ones she recognized, anyway.

"Filippo's," she said with a scowl at her usual favorite neighborhood restaurant. "Not up to par."

And on and on it went, until at last we had turned on Ashby and the Elmwood neighborhood shopping area was past us.

I do that, I thought.

Not the same way, of course.  I've got excuses for the nonstop negativity.

"Protection against the evil eye," I say.  Can't say something good because something terrible will happen.

But it amounts to the same thing. One negative statement after another.  What a drag I must be to be around. Or at the very least, exhausting.

Which is weird, because I actually think the world is filled with beauty and not just shit. I see beauty. I strive for it. I'm filled with awe this time of year at the fall colors on the Berkeley trees. Giant bouquets of reds and yellows and browns. God I love Berkeley in the fall.

And I don't, as I drive, say: "well it's not Vermont. Vermont does this so much better." I never say that. I don't even think it. I'm immersed in the beauty of the world.


I recognize the onslaught of negative thinking. And I'm vowing to pay attention to it.

Lately, I've been saying the positive bits much more than the negative.  Especially the ultimate faux pas:

I'm happy.
Not sure I ever said that one out loud before, but I've been saying it of late.  Tempting the fates, as it were. Because I really and truly do believe that talking about one's good fortune is the kiss of death. Possibly quite literally.  Does NLP help reprogram the brain on this one? Does psychoanalysis? Not that I plan on trying either one. But I could read about it. Think about it.

Meanwhile. Horrors.

Oh, but wait. No. I take that back.

Meanwhile. I'm happy.

And that means—

But let's leave it right there.

mourning mourning

At a certain point, I suppose, one just gets sick of the whole damned enterprise. And that's the time to step back and write a paper about it. Which we did. And presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Montréal. We just got back. The presentation went really well. Maybe a little too well. It was good to step back and take stock and have something academic to say about the one year experiment.

But this is what I'd say here:

Our Kaddish in Two-Part Harmony was not just a success, it was a grand failure as well.  We set up rules to mourn by—and broke all the rules that really counted.  Maybe if we'd stuck to our guns, we'd still be in mourning-mode today. But instead of immersing in our sorrows and staying there, our sorrows lifted. And after a while, impossible as it seems to me, the sorrow's just plain gone. I mean, is that fair?

Not that that means that we don't miss our dearly departed. No, not that. But we're no longer in mourning.

And I kinda feel guilty about that.  I've put those photos away. I've stopped lighting candles. I no longer say kaddish unless I'm coerced.  The loss is there, but it's not the same black cloud looming overhead. And worst of all: I'm just plain happy. We both are.

Now what kind of mourning project is that?

So. What it tells me is that ritual works. It does the job if you stick to it on a daily basis. And just that doing, day after day, is enough to do the trick.  For us, it did the trick a month early. We were both ready to stop. Stop and move on. But my Kaddish partner is better at keeping on than I am. And because of her, we'll finish the year's experiment in formal mourning on November 27th. Will it feel any different then than it does now?

The main problem is that I've been happy.  Now what kind of mourning is that? And as a result, I haven't written a single word in a month. Except for the paper we presented at the AAA Conference.  But not a word on our blogs. Almost as if writing and unhappiness go together, which has to be absurd, right? Or a very bad habit.

For one month, it's been analysis rather than wallowing in death and dying.

But now, it's time to switch gears. And I can feel those gears heading into some new, strange, and dangerous territory...