Sunday, November 26, 2006

schpunkt, or, Thanksgiving in the country

We spent Thanksgiving in Michigan, at my friend, Exuberant Boy's family's home in the country. By the time we got there late on Thursday afternoon, he and his boyfriend, Sly Enabler, had a fire going in the fireplace, a roast in the oven, and had worked their way through the better part of a bottle of vodka. GF and I did our best to catch up with cocktail hour and by the time dinner was served--which we ate in front of the tv, while watching trashy Thanksgiving programming--we all felt pretty jolly. Jolly enough, that is, to spend the rest of the evening watching Pippi Longstocking. (Which I wouldn't have remembered if it weren't for the fifth season Gilmore Girls' episode, "We've Got a Pippi Virgin Here." Lorelei describes it as an oddly surreal masterpiece, or something like that. She's not wrong. It's also oddly pornographic, teeming with crotch shots and phallic visual puns.)

Sly Enabler and I fell asleep somewhere after the schpunkt exam (if it's been a while, a major plot point entails Pippi "making up" the word schpunkt and then using it in all sorts of ha-larious ways: she loses her schpunkt and interrupts the town gossip's tea party looking for it; she booby-traps a door with a bucket of eggs and paint and catches a schpunkt; and finally, she breaks her schpunkt and has to have it checked, which, thanks to Sweden's fabulous socialized medicine program, doesn't cost her anything: "As always, Pippi," the creepy doctor tells her, "the schpunkt exam is free!") and before the cake party/sausage eating contest, which her father, the semi-comatose cannibal pirate king wins handily.

We got up earlyish the next day, had a huge breakfast, started cooking our real Thanksgiving dinner, watched another movie, were joined by more friends, took a walk in the woods, hauled fire wood, started another fire, got started on another cocktail hour, and finally sat down to our Thanksgiving feast Friday evening. Then we watched Pippi, again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Known Donors: A Really Bad Idea

This week's New York Time's Magazine article, about gay sperm donors who are, or want to be, part-time fathers, disturbed me. I'm glad this issue is getting attention, as it's something lesbians who are contemplating how and when they might become parents think about all the time. It's a complicated issue legally, as well as socially and politically, and I'm always hungry to hear how other people are negotiating this in their lives. But the author seemed intent on exposing people who parent queerly as un-queer and super-normative. Neither the women or the men profiled in this article look good. The lesbians all come off as dour, controlling, selfish women who want "the privilege of being able to say to their children, ‘That’s your father,’ without having to really give up anything;" the men read as either careless assholes or born-again believers in a biologically essentialist notion of Fatherhood as a right and a duty.

The family pictured on the cover of the magazine was especially disturbing. According to the non-biological father in this four parent family, there's a hierarchy of parents: biological mother, biological father, non-biological mother, non-biological father. Wow. That's so, ummm, STRAIGHT. If this is a misrepresentation of how power works in this family, it's reflective of non-biological dad's bitterness that although (according to the article) he's the father who plays with the children, changes their diapers, and tries to inculcate them with manners, the biological father (a wanna-be actor who offers the chilling insight that "one of the supreme joys of fatherhood is the idea that one day his sons might see him on television") is treated with respect. In the meantime, the non-biological father is told by the evil and controlling lesbian mothers that "you're only here because of him," meaning his long-term partner, with whom he forged a committment, and essentially formed a family years before these children were even conceived.

Other male interviewees related harrowing tales of facing hostile lesbian mothers in court, flakey women, some of whom aren't even gay anymore, begging for even the smallest opportunity to be a part of THEIR. NATURAL. child's life--two hours a week, the right to say hello to the chid on the street, anything--only to be rebuked/chastised/exiled.

So this is a problem. But is this really an accurate portrayal of relationships between lesbian mothers and the gay men who father their children? The only positive depiction of this relationship came in a parenthetical aside about a rich gay lawyer who makes a long-distance queer family relationship work by taking vacations every few weeks with all of them, which suggests that the struggles of the other families--child care, responsibilities around the house--have more to do with class and limited resources than queerness.

And what about the lesbian mothers? At the very end of the article an anonymous woman who went through a protracted legal struggle with her donor confesses how scared she and her partner were, how isolated they felt and how few resources there were for them to draw on. And who could blame them? How often does the law rule in favor of two lesbians over ANY man? That's a different article, but it's probably not one the NY Times will publish, because as is, this piece fits in with their pattern of pathologizing "non-traditional" mothers. This article might ostensibly be about forging new, queer families, but it's really the same old song: Women have too much power; men are disenfranchised; fathers are powerless and irrelevant. Patriarchy is on the wane. Oh the humanity!!! What this article does chillingly well is foist the tired narrative of Men. Versus. Women. on a group of people who have consciously "opted out" of this culturally over-determined battle.

I picked up this article last night as a woman who planned on using a known-donor to get pregnant. Twenty-minutes later I was on-line checking out the price lists and donor sheets of the local sperm bank.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clean, not crafted, and random

My house is clean, that is. I am dirty, having spent the last several hours vacuuming, mopping, dusting, scouring, doing laundry, etc. I have to go into school for a meeting in an hour, so this isn't a totally at-home day, but it's the closest I've had in three months. This means that when GF comes home from school tomorrow (for a whole week!) she will not cough and choke at the accumulated dust, and her feet will not crunch on crystal cat litter scattered (despite my most strenuous and creative efforts to stop this) across the kitchen floor.

The not crafted refers to my blog entry. It's just a quick report from my day--raw and uninteresting--and it goes out with love to What Now, Timna, and Geeky Mom, who, during our totally wonderful lunch last week during a conference, encouraged me to "just blog" sometimes.

So here's the random part: I can't stop thinking about Grey's Anatomy. I resisted this show for two years. No concept of the actors, the characters, the premise, NOTHING. I especially resisted last season's two hour finale. I hated the show just hearing about Denny's melodramatic death. (I'm still not far enough into the show to really get who Denny is yet, even.) And then I finished watching the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica on my video ipod and needed something else to work out to, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's a soap opera. Pure, old-school soap opera, with class differences, handsome doctors, apparently no hospital regulations or oversight, and lots of sex. The only difference is that instead of over-sexed nurses (well, there's the syphilitic one) we have over-sexed surgical residents, which is supposed to be empowering, but isn't, really. So, of course, I'm hooked on it, and needing my fix gets me to the gym pretty near every day. Yesterday I ended up doing 90 minutes on the elliptical because the episode I was watching was a two-parter (the one with the bomb) and NO WAY was I getting off that machine before I found out what happened.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

90 more minutes

of teaching left in what has been the longest, shortest, hardest, most frantic quarter I've ever experienced. The next time I agree to teach 5 days a week, someone hit me. Hard.

The stats:
10 weeks
3 classes
100 students
2 conferences
4 presentations
8 committees
1 article accepted for publication (YAY!!!!)

Happily the last text of the last day of the worst quarter is the last half of Dracula, and so by the time I've dragged them through Max Nordau and explained why Van Helsing keeps talking about Dracula's "child-brain," and squeeged them out by spending way too much time on the scene where Mina sucks blood from Dracula's chest, pointing out, too forcefully, that, with her arms pinned behind her and his hand pushing her head down and into him, this is really a forced-fellatio scene, it will be time to hand out evaluations, say my goodbyes, and run like hell.

More soon.