The Single Parent

I don’t think many people would contend that single parenthood is ideal. I don’t know many (any?) people who have aspired to it. Raising a child can be difficult even with a loving, supportive partner.  Take that out of the equation, and it can be flat out overwhelming.

I am a single mom.  No — that wasn’t by design. I was married to my daughter’s father for seven years, and she is, without question, the best collaborative effort anyone could ever ask for.  She is an amazing, wondrous, beautiful little soul and the reason I don’t regret for one second having been married to her father.  I do regret that we weren’t able to make the marriage work — we both bear responsibility for that, and I will always carry with me the guilt of letting our little girl down and not giving her the ideal family situation. 

Still, I consider myself very lucky.  My ex and I are on good terms — friends even.  And I believe we do a fairly decent job of co-parenting our kiddo.  She splits her time evenly between us, and we figure out a way to put her first and make it all work.  Mine is certainly no hard knock story, either.  I am blessed with an amazingly supportive family, who help out with child care when necessary.  I was an “older” mom to begin with — had my daughter when I was in my early thirties — and already had an established career.  I have the usual stressors — I worry about remaining employed, I worry about finances, I worry about being a good mom and raising my daughter to be strong and healthy and happy — but I get by.

And when I have my doubts, when I get scared that I just can’t do it and am going to mess it all up, I look to my grandmother for inspiration. She became a single mom (through divorce) at the height of The Depression. Her parents owned a farm, and she had to leave my mom in their care during the week to work at her job in the city. I recall her telling me that, for a time, she only had one dress to wear to work, so she would wash it every night in the sink in her apartment and hang it up to dry, then get up the next morning, put it back on, and go to work. She knew tough times. I don’t know all the details obviously, and never discussed her feelings and thoughts on it all in depth, but I know that she endured. And, in the process, managed to raise a very happy, healthy, well-adjusted daughter herself. So, it gives me hope and gives me strength — if she could do it with all of those odds stacked against her, I can certainly do it with far fewer.

Familiarity with her experience and my own has, I’m quite certain, colored my perception of what the term “single mom” means.  I suppose you could say I figure it means mostly the same thing “mom” means — a wide variety of things. In short, you could say no particular stereotype comes to mind when I hear the term.  So it was with great surprise that I learned several months ago on a conservative message board I frequent that most single moms earn a living working the pole.  (Obviously, this isn’t the case. However, the stereotype was trotted out in snide, dismissive fashion. It probably won’t surprise the reader to learn that I took exception to this.)

Earlier today, I stumbled across a somewhat similar discussion on Twitter.  A young friend I follow who also happens to be a single mom, was branded a tramp and asked (in accusatory fashion) if she was on governmental assistance.  To further add insult to injury her heritage was disparaged. I don’t know what prompted the accusations. I only know that they struck a nerve with me. Quite honestly, I don’t know the circumstances of her single parenthood, nor had I given it much thought — I know her purely from our minimal interactions on Twitter. I do know that she strikes me as a sharp young conservative-minded lady. And I know that she wasn’t deserving of the invective hurled at her. There’s one more thing I know, above all else: Even though the circumstances may not have been ideal, she chose to give her child life.

So, what is it about single motherhood that prompts — in some — the instinct to judge, accuse and hate?  And why is single fatherhood received in almost opposite fashion?  A man who, sans mother of his child, nevertheless supports, cares for and takes an active role in said child’s life is lauded.  He’s a stand up guy.  He is not branded a tramp. He is not presumed to be shucking his clothes for a living. He isn’t assumed to be on the dole.  No, the presumption is that if he does these things, inspite of not being married to or in a committed relationship with the mother of his child, he is a noble man — he is to be admired for taking care of his responsibilities. 

Quite frankly, I agree with that presumption. I do admire men who stand up and take care of their families.  Men who see parenthood for the gift that it is and who put parenting their children first are to be lauded.  Then again, in my book, so are women.


Titus & the Newtones

I can honestly say I’d forgotten Christopher Titus existed until this past week.  And I was okay with that. Unfortunately, I was reminded of his existence when he opted to break out that gut-busting, knee-sleeping, pants-peeing joke about perching atop the grassy knoll should Sarah Palin be elected President. Assassination Humor at its finest.  (Ever notice that “assassination” has “ass” in it – twice? Sorry – brief tangent.) 

My immediate reaction was one I imagine many folks had: What if he’d made the same “joke” about Barack Obama?  Anyone with an ounce of intellectual integrity knows the answer to that question, of course.  He’d have been massacred by the media. And rightly so. Oh, whoops, I forgot. Not supposed to use words that evoke violent imagery. Unless, of course, they’re directed at a conservative.  Then, they’re funny

It was just a few short months ago that the professional left upped its contortionist quotient exponentially with attempts to pin the horrific shooting in Tucson on “violent rhetoric” from the right, and even worse, on Palin herself for having the audacity to target specific congressional districts (including that of Gabrielle Giffords) in the 2010 elections.  Then, it was all about how Talk Radio and evil conservatives have created such a hateful tone that the Loughners of the world are compelled to go on vicious shooting sprees. Never mind the fact that further inquiry into Loughner’s background indicated no such link, and he has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. And yet, blithely dismissed. I try to think back to my leftward days and imagine what my old self would have thought of such a “joke.”  Yeah, I don’t think even then I’d have found it funny.  Sick is what it is.  I think when you’re to the point of trolling for laughs with assassination jokes, it might be time to take a long hard look into your soul. If you dare.


A Weinershed Moment

Since everyone and their cousin has already weighed in on L’Affaire De Weiner, I originally intended to abstain.  However, there is one aspect of the whole sordid mess that has stood out to me as events have unfolded this past week-and-a-half.  Yes, it is somewhat unsettling that a sitting Congressman could be so careless and, frankly, act so stupidly, both in his interactions with his on-line “friends” and in his subsequent attempts to cover his rear end.  (Or, well, you know what I mean.)  Sadly, though, I did not find myself particularly shocked by any of it.

The media angle on the story, however, has been utterly fascinating to watch from the sidelines.  I was listening to The Stage Right show on the evening the Tweet Seen ‘Round the World was issued. It was clear that something was afoot. Larry O’Connor had to leave the show for a few minutes to take a phone call.  A comment was made in Chat that something big was breaking.  I had my Twitter feed up, as well, and saw Dana Loesch’s inquiry regarding Yfrog accounts and Twitter names.  Soon, the story was posted at Big Gov, and the endless Twittergasm ensued. 

I spent much of Memorial Day Weekend at the pool.  Virtually none of it watching the “MSM” or their reporting on the story.  Still, it was clear that it was getting very little play outside the Blogosphere.  The following Tuesday, I had lunch with four co-workers, all of whom are well-informed and typically up on news and current events.  Only one of them had heard of Weinergate at that point, and he, only because I’d just introduced him to the Twitterverse the week before and suggested he follow several of the folks I follow.  That’s pretty amazing when you consider that we were then three full days out from the story’s breaking.

I followed the coverage throughout the rest of last week, of course.  Noted that CNN at least appeared to be interested in taking a closer look.  And, of course, Weiner’s own press junket helped keep the story front and center.  I wasn’t overly surprised by the reflexive reaction of Leftblogistan to defend Weiner and cry “rightwingconspiracy,” though I was somewhat amazed at the lengths some seemed willing to go to deny an ounce of credit to Breitbart and his team for breaking the story, and worse, to actually accuse them of having manufactured it.  Really? Seriously? Friday night on a holiday weekend and Breitbart and Loesch and the rest of the crew have nothing better to do than “hack” a sitting Congressman’s accounts and post “photoshopped” pics of his junk in gray boxer briefs?  (All in an effort to run interference for Clarence Thomas, of course.)

I do shake my head a lot these days.  It’s almost painful to see the visceral, nasty instincts so many on the left are so quick to display.  Hey, the right has ’em, too.  I’m not blind.  But how anyone with a shred of objectivity could sit back and watch all this play out and not see the incredible lack of symmetry there, I honestly don’t know.  I can say (with certitude) that even in my leftward days, I’d have had trouble swallowing the crap (oh, you don’t know how badly I want to say something else*) some on the left are shoveling over this.

This past Sunday night, I observed a tweet from Breitbart himself which called to mind a kid in a candy store.  Or me, with a really good Texas Hold ’em hand.  Clearly, while the flop had been remarkable, the turn and the river promised to be even more so!  Sure enough, yesterday morning came the revelation that (as I’d predicted to my co-workers that Tuesday before), there were, indeed, more ladies who’d been on the receiving end of Weiner’s naughty tweets.  And then, to top it off, the press conference with an unscheduled intro from….none other than Breitbart himself.  Vindication, indeed!

Look, I can’t claim to know any of these players well at all.  I can only rely on what I’ve observed.  What I observed this past week or so was a Congressman in a pickle, acting defensive and giving inconsistent stories.  What I observed was a blogger/journalist who’s been repeatedly demonized appearing, for all the world, to be very carefully and meticulously peeling back the layers in an attempt to get to the bottom of the story.  Thus far, the story has played out in a fashion quite consistent with my observations.  This tells me to keep watching closely and keep trusting my instincts. 

This afternoon, I listened to Dana’s interview with Breitbart on her radio show.  She asked him if he saw this as a turning point.  Immediately, my goofy and semi-perverse brain thought, “Ah! A Weinershed moment!”  After a momentary tee-hee, I thought, yes, this actually is a turning point.  The way this has all played out couldn’t have been better scripted from Breitbart’s perspective.  The left’s kneejerk deflection and fingerpointing at him had the effect of making the story at least, in part, about him.  And you know what? He’s come out the winner on this one.  While the cameras were rolling.  Congrats to him and the Bigs.  Nicely played. 

*All double entendres in the above are purely coincidental. 

Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy

Have to acknowledge up front that this entry isn’t really about double standards and hypocrisy.  It is about standards, though, I suppose.  I was listening to the @Stage_Right show the other night, and he had a guest on, @mrjondavid (Jon David Kahn) who referred to various attempts he’d made to date liberals. It called to mind a conversation I had with my sisters several years ago. We were eating dinner in Austin, in a restaurant with a view out onto the street. A Smart Car pulled up outside and my one sister remarked on how “cute” it was.  I made the off-hand comment that it would be a deal-breaker for me. Meaning I could never date a guy who drove a Smart Car.  This was met with much consternation on her part. I realized that, in a certain respect, it sounded harsh perhaps, or judgmental.  But no…no…any attempt I made to conjure up an image of Mr. Smart Car was the mental equivalent of a cold shower.

Yes, I did wonder to myself why exactly that was.  I think most people will intuitively understand where I’m coming from with it.  But it does raise some interesting questions about dating and stereotypes. I’ll just be blunt here: To me, a guy who drives a Smart Car is likely overly eco-conscious, which means he’s also likely quite liberal. On top of that, the statement he appears to be making with his auto choice is, “Look at me! Aren’t I cute?!” Hey, sorry – I’m not into guys who want to come off as “cute”.  Don’t get me wrong – some guys are unbearably cute. In a puppyish sort of way. And that’s okay. But there’s something distinctly eeeesh about a guy who actively pursues the perception of cute.  Also, from a practical standpoint, I don’t live a Smart Car kind of life. I have a kid. And while, technically, I’m not a soccer mom, I am a mom who enjoys being able to haul not only said kid around, but also said kid’s friends and/or my bike and/or the dog, etc.  I don’t see that working well in an enclosed golf cart.

But to my first point there — a guy who’s liberal.  Setting aside the fact that I’ve placed myself in indefinite Time Out from dating, why wouldn’t I want to date a guy who’s a liberal?  It isn’t purely concern that ideological differences might create unnecessary strife between us.  I co-exist just fine with my liberal family and friends.  No, it’s down a little deeper than that.  I think what it really comes down to is this: Liberal men tend to buy into the whole progressive ideal of gender fungibility.  The anti-heteronormativity meme which frowns on men being men and women being women.  They also tend to buy into the notion of government being the answer to all problems. Which, to me, means they lean towards being followers, rather than leaders.  There are no liberal sheepdogs. 

It may be an unfair generalization to make, but it is quite difficult for me to envision a liberal cowboy. I simply cannot reconcile the image of a man who’s strong and confident and capable and self-assured but thinks peddling around a Fred Flinstone mobile is cool.  I am a strong, independent, capable, intelligent female.  Any fella who’s gonna dance with me better be ready, willing and able to lead that.  And I don’t see Mr. Smart Car as a likely candidate. So, no, I don’t believe I’ll be dating any liberals — either as a sociological experiment, or as an attempt to bridge the gap.  I’ll hang with the cowboys, thanks.


From Left to Right

So…I’ve decided to dip my toes back into the political pond.  Have been wanting to for months — if not longer — but wasn’t sure where to start. I suppose the best place to start is the beginning:

I was raised a Liberal.  By loving, compassionate, well-intentioned, Classical Liberals, with occasional bouts of progressivism balanced out by fleeting moments of conservatism.  I knew I was a Liberal — referred to myself as such — but never realized that wasn’t essentially the same as “moderate” or “middle-of-the-road” until about 8 or 9 years ago. I’m going to cut myself a break and chalk it up to naivete. Honestly, I just didn’t know.

Most of the people I knew were like-minded. The news I consumed validated and reinforced my views. The education I received did, as well. Those with significantly differing view points were clearly nutso, uninformed, rightwingers, and either Bible-thumpers, warmongers, capitalist pigs, or all of the above. They were “Others.” And quite clearly, they were wrong.  They had to be. Just about everybody I knew thought so. Almost everyone I looked up to and respected said so. 

Except that, whenever I was pushed to explain how they were wrong, I struggled. I knew I was intelligent and well-educated. I knew my heart was in the right place. But there was this…inner…discomfort I never could quite escape.  I didn’t understand it then, but I suppose I was contending with my own special brand of cognitive dissonance.  And I didn’t like it.  When a friend poked around the edges of my devotion to the DNC, I bristled. When a boyfriend gently prodded me to think, REALLY think, about my beliefs on abortion, I stayed up all night arguing with him, refusing to concede that maybe, just maybe, he had a valid point.

What I realize now is that it wasn’t really them I was fighting. It was me. My inner voice — the one that yearns for common sense, order, practicality, efficiency and logical consistency — was whispering to me that perhaps the world didn’t work quite the way I’d always thought; perhaps my perceptions were…flawed?

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a perfectionist like me.  Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, it turned out could.  The recognition of this didn’t happen overnight, of course.  It was a slow, and sometimes painful, process. There are definitely landmarks along the way to which I can point, however: September 11th (I’ve learned this holds true for many); becoming a parent; discovering a “crazy right wing” political message board where I initially intended to be a drive-by troll, but ended up sitting on the front porch with the rest of the wingnuts, eventually becoming a moderator; reconnecting with my faith; the Terri Schiavo debacle. I could go on, but you get the gist.

There was one book, in particular, that I have to mention, as well: “Bias” by Bernie Goldberg.  I read it sometime around 2003 or 2004.  And the scales truly began to fall from my eyes.  For the first time in my life, I realized that all information comes to us through filters.  There is no such thing as a truly objective news source. Which is all well and good, as long as one understands this and recognizes that each morsel we’re fed is flavored by the agenda of the person(s) serving it up.  Truthfully, I feel a bit silly that this was something it took me 30 some-odd years to get. For a smart girl, I sure was pretty slow on the uptake.

So, the journey has not been a speedy one.  And it has meandered a bit along the way. But I have, indeed, traversed the Great Divide.  The advantage I believe I have now is that I can still see the other side. I am aware not only that it exists, but I am familiar with it, and not instinctively and automatically angry towards it.  Yes, on its outskirts, it is most certainly loony.  (Then again, there’s some looniness in the other direction if one wanders too terribly far.) Most people, I’ve found however, camp out within range of the divide.  And if they aren’t firmly entrenched in the “politics as a team sport” mentality, are open to marginally reasoned discourse — especially one-on-one and over a beer. 

What does anger me, though — what seriously burns me up — is the rampant hypocrisy. There is a double standard firmly in place.  What goes for the left, does not go for the right. Whenever objection is raised to it — when attempts are made to shine the light on it — the cords get yanked and the shades get pulled back down by the Professional Left and its media hit men. And the most insidious thing about it is the fact that so many remain utterly oblivious to it.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of that.  The shoe’s on the other foot now.