When I was in graduate school, I dated a Catholic (with both a capital C and a lowercase one) girl. She gave me a book one year for a gift. It wasn’t just any book; it was a book she had read while she was still in high school. According to her, it was a book that changed her worldview and gave her insight into a topic she never expected to be interested in. Having attended Catholic school and grown up in a suburban Midwestern town, she knew very few Jews. In fact, when we met in 1996, I was the first real Jewish friend she had ever had. Fortunately, she was smart enough to know that we didn’t have horns or anything like that, but she still knew very little about the religion or the culture or the people. I am pleased to say that she is quite knowledgeable now, thanks in part to me, but also thanks in part to this book. Of course, that book was Leon Uris’s Exodus.
I dutifully read the book, and thought that it was very interesting. I must confess that I remember very little of the book 12+ years later. I do remember that I enjoyed it, and that I was glad that she had read it and understood a little better the importance to the Jews of a homeland, particularly after the Second World War and the atrocities that were afflicted upon European Jews. I am blessed that I was born in an era where anti-Semitism is at an historic low. True, there is still hate related crimes against the Jews, and, perhaps even worse, anti-Semitic sentiment still reigns, but fortunately, I have never really been personally exposed to serious anti-Semitism. I am also fortunate to have been born in the US, where arguably, I am more protected from anti-Semitism than almost anywhere else in the world. I also consider myself lucky to have been born in an era where the State of Israel has asserted her right to exist, and although too many people still die (on both sides), and there are still too many bombings, there isn’t war and the serious constant threat like from 1948 thru 1967. I have been blessed to have lived and toured Israel at a time when peace was the norm, and attacks were not…at least where I lived in Jerusalem. My friend SK may feel differently; she lived in the north and had to sit in her bomb shelter almost weekly.
I finally got around to watching Otto Preminger’s insanely long movie adaptation of Uris’s book (which was no slim novel itself). In a nutshell it was exactly what I expected. Bad acting, poor sound, obvious dubbing, and too many shadows of the cameraman (most obvious in the scene where Ari and Kitty kiss for the first time as they overlook the Valley of Jezreel). Nevertheless, it fascinated me to watch this epic unfold on my television (I can only imagine what it was like on the Big Screen). It amazed me how propagandist it was (was the book so much so as well?). How could anyone walk out of that movie and not say, “hell yea the Jews deserve their own land…and what’s with those awful Arabs? They were invited to live in peace and said no. F’ them. It’s their own fault.” Of course, the reality of the situation between the Jews and the Arabs was (and still is) much more complicated than Otto made it out to be, and there were other, centuries old forces at play.
I’m not ashamed to say that I got caught up in the moment of the movie, and I kept thinking, how exciting and romantic it would have been to be living back then, just before the birth of a nation. To be among the first generation who created a fertile, vibrant country out of sand and dust. It reminded me of what the Jewish people had to go through to get the world to have any sympathy whatsoever to allow the partition to happen, and what these same people had to go through in order to survive in an arid land with enemies on all sides. Just like the American experiment has baffled economists and historians, so, too, has the survival of Israel baffled all the naysayers. Logically, the country shouldn’t have survived the War of Independence, let alone any of the other wars. And yet, somehow it has. We could talk about God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We could talk about God’s promise that Jerusalem would never fall. We could talk about a myriad other explanations, but no matter what, the bottom line is that the State of Israel did survive, and she has prospered.
I think that the part of all of this that has been gnawing at me lately is that back then, I think everyone knew what they were fighting for. Ari claims to have dynamite strapped to the Exodus’s engines. If the British try to take the ship, he will detonate it, killing every Jewish man, woman, and child, as well as the British soldiers. When the Haganah commander finally decides that all children under 13 must return to Cypress to ensure their survival, he is reprimanded by those very children’s mothers. They would rather see their children die struggling to reach Palestine, then die behind barbed wire like some caged animal. I have heard stories that the #1 bus in Jerusalem (which takes you from town right to the Western Wall in the Old City) used to have grenades regularly lobbed into it. Back then, so the stories go, someone would immediately throw themselves upon it, sacrificing themselves to protect the rest of the bus. There’s another story I’ve been told about a soldier during the War of Independence. He was part of a demolition crew, and they were ordered to destroy a key bridge, lest the Arabs use it to get their forces across. After the explosives were set, it was discovered they had no detonators left. Knowing full well the importance of destroying the bridge, the soldier stayed behind. After giving his unit enough time to get to safety, he ignited the dynamite by hand, taking out the bridge, and himself with it. I’m not so sure that modern Israel has this sense anymore.
The Survivors—those who lived to tell the horrors of Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, and the other concentration camps—are dying. There are only a handful left. Likewise, those still alive who fought in the Haganah, the Palmach, and the Irgun are also growing fewer and fewer. The old soldiers who created the Israeli Defense Forces, the army that every other army studied because they did the impossible on a daily basis have all long since retired. The last war in Lebanon is an example of how things have changed in Israel. Ignoring America’s strong hand in the goings-on in that war for a moment, it was still clear that IDF command were at a loss of how to organize and lead a major war. This is not necessarily their fault, and ironically, it can be seen as a good thing: while almost every IDF soldier has seen some sort of combat, none, until the last war in Lebanon, had actually been to war. Israel’s current army is a mere shadow of the once fearsome army that broke the rules and impressed even its bitterest enemies. People today have forgotten what their fathers and grandfathers fought for.
This is not an argument about land for peace or anything like that. This is an argument of patriotism, of familiarity, of comfort. Israel is now 60. By strict definition, that is 2 generations. People of the current generation have forgotten what it’s like to struggle daily for Israel’s very existence. I don’t mean to negate or diminish the current situation of suicide bombers and rocket attacks from Gaza, but I would argue that this is not the same as having to stand guard 24 hours a day so that your kibbutz isn’t ambushed by the enemy. With all due respect to those who have lost loved ones in recent times, today is very peaceful compared to 60 years ago. And this has created a generation that has taken Israel’s existence for granted. Today, no one fights for Israel’s right to exist, or for its right to exist as one piece of land and not two states. Granted, there are still extremist Arab groups that still want to see the destruction of the Jewish State, but with the Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords and the official pacts, accords, and talks with the Palestinian Authority, it is becoming much more rhetorical than literal.
I am a hopeless romantic, always looking for an adventure and excitement. As with most things in my life, I was born too late. I doubt that I will ever find myself telling my grandchildren stories that grandchildren and even great grandchildren today hear from their grand- and great grandparents about what it was like in the late 1940s in Israel. I worry that I might actually have the opportunity. I believe that now is the time for the IDF to look at how it operated back then and learn from itself. If there is a 2 State agreement, I am concerned that our biggest fears will be realized and that there will be another war for independence. It took the United States 2 wars to convince the United Kingdom that we were serious about severing ties with the Empire, and it seems likely that Israel, too, will need to once again demonstrate her resolve to survive in the inhospitable climate in which she resides. Unlike the US, every war that Israel has fought has been for her very existence and independence, and a future one will be no different.
I pray that there won’t be, but, God forbid, if there is another Arab-Israel war, I pray that the old attitudes and feelings of pride will return to the Jewish people, and they will recognize and understand what they are saying as they sing HaTikvah:
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And forward to the East
To Zion, an eye looks
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
I just finished reading A Pigeon and a Boy, by Meir Shalev. Shalev is the Sabra’s favorite author, so when we heard that he was speaking at the DCJCC a few months ago, we went to hear him. Afterwards, they were selling his book, and he was signing autographs. So, even though it was still a few months to Chanukah, and even though I was standing there, the Sabra bought me the book (in English, by the way) for my Chanukah present, and had Mr. Shalev sign it (also in English). I was a little surprised by how aloof he was while we were getting the book signed. The Sabra told him (in Hebrew) that he was her favorite author and that she had read every book he has written; she was buying this one for me so she could introduce me to him. He said, in sum (and in English), “thanks,” and pushed the book back to us. He did smile, so maybe he’s just a moody artist.
Superficially, the book is about Yair who is frustrated with his life and decides to build a home for himself. He is a tour guide, and while ferrying around some American dignitaries, he discovers that one had served in the Palmach, and had fought with a young pigeon handler nicknamed the Baby. Half the book is devoted to telling the love story of the Baby and the Girl, while the other half deals with Yair’s life, his estrangement from his American wife, Liora, and his subsequent love affair with “his contractor who is a woman,” whom he has loved from afar since they were young children. Obviously, the two stories are intertwined, but I will leave it to you to read the book to discover the story.
According to Shalev, the idea of the book came to him as he and his wife were driving to their new home that they were building, and he decided then and there that he wanted to tell the story of building a home. He described in detail, towards the end of the book, Yair’s journey from Tel Aviv to his new home, and it is almost word for word with how Shalev described the journey he and his wife took to their new home when he revealed to her that he intended to write the book.
The problem with all translations is that it is difficult to tell how much of the poetry and beauty in the choice of words strung together to form sentences are the original author’s and how much are the translator’s. Shalev has been called the Israeli Gabriel García Márquez, and after reading the book it is understandable. He paints his canvas with the same pigments that Márquez uses: the muted greens of a feminine voice, the bold violets of love, and the stark reds of hatred. Likewise, he uses the brushes of sarcasm, innuendo, sadness, and depression. And, again like Márquez, there is clear evidence of broad strokes of humor throughout, albeit with the hue of bittersweetness. At any given point throughout the story, you find yourself smirking or laughing aloud as your eyes water and that uncomfortable lump in your throat prevents you from swallowing properly.
Like a Vonnegut novel, there wasn’t much of a plot in A Pigeon and a Boy, but unlike Vonnegut, Shalev keeps your interested in his characters. You want to read more about their memories, about their lives, about their fears, and about their dreams. I would argue that there is a little Yair in all of us, and that is what makes the character so universal. No matter who you are, there are skeletons in your closet; for some those bones will haunt, for others, they are merely the remains of the past. Yair finds a home of his own, one with empty closets, one where he can start afresh, and that is not too different from anyone else. We all dream of starting over and starting fresh.
And therein lies the problems I have with Shalev’s book. It is not actually with his book per se, but with the genre in general. I do not enjoy watching—or even reading, but less so with books—horror films. It is not that I don’t appreciate the skills of the authors, or the talents of the makeup artists, or even the skills displayed by the actors. No, it is much simpler. I don’t like to be scared. There are so many things in life that already scare me, I don’t want to see my fears made manifest on the Silver Screen. If I am going to the movies or to read a book, it is for escape, to escape from the fears and worries and concerns that I face every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment. This is why I prefer comedies and action and adventure films. For an hour and a half I can escape into a world of make-believe where some unimportant average shmoe (like me) can rise up and save the damsel in distress/country/planet/galaxy/universe. So, too, it is with books that are sad. A friend of mine would say that being sad is wonderful sometimes and that it’s good and cathartic to cry. I agree, but these are not the feelings that I look forward to on grey, rainy days, as I curl up on the couch with a book and hot cuppa. Like fear, there is enough sadness in my life, and especially on wet, dark days, that I do not want to read about misery and dysphoria. I prefer to read something that will make he happy, smile, and even laugh. I like to laugh.
There are, of course, exceptions to this reticence of mine to frolic in the River Melancholia, and when the mood hits me to sail upon her warm, inviting waters, a book like A Pigeon and a Boy is the perfect vessel.
I realize that I haven’t really posted in quite a while (well, to be honest, I’ve posted more recently than between other posts in the past). So, I’ve been hunting around for something to talk about. I recently completed Lynne Truss’s book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. It was exactly what was to be expected. I find her writing engaging, inspiring, and refreshing. She writes (generally) how I strive to write: in a carefree, laid back, yet sometimes pedantic manner, but never losing sight of the fact that pop culture references are OK. Sadly, while I found myself at times laughing out loud and at others nodding my head emphatically in agreement, I found the book to be rather disappointing. Where Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation was educational and fun, Talk to the Hand was more of general ranting with little scholarship behind it (not that her intention was to be scholarly in any way—in fact she says in the beginning that it won’t be). In general, I find that comediennes tend to focus their humor on a) men/relationships, 2) being fat, and III) periods. While she didn’t really talk about any of these, there was still, at times, that feel of the safe fallback routines for women, if that makes any kind of sense.
Or, if I didn’t want to talk about that, I could discuss either or both of the other books I’m reading, Spunk & Bite, a book that I hope will help me to write in the aforementioned style, and Cursing in America: A Psycholinguistic Study of Dirty Language in the Courts, in the Movies, in the Schoolyards and on the Streets, which the title pretty much says it all. The former is really little more than bathroom reading at this point, and the latter is actually more engaging than I expected. The author’s not much of a writer, but the topic is interesting. I’m sure he picked it for no other reason than to be able to say such words as fuck, motherfucker, cocksucker, and cunt at academic conferences…but that’s just my guess. In case you are wondering, I just finished Bill Bryson’s book, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, and in there he mentioned Cursing in America as one of the only books on the history of cursing, so I thought I’d pick it up. (Also, in case you’re wondering, I really didn’t like Made in America. I found the title misleading; it was more a brief history of America than anything to do with language. True, he did mention at the end of each section or chapter that words came out of whatever specific moment in time he was discussing, but it really wasn’t about the words as much as it was about the history of the United States.)
Then I thought about the book I’ve been neglecting. I started reading Gabriel García Márquez’ semi-fictional Love in the Time of Cholera, but I have to be honest, it’s not terribly exciting, and I’ve been reading other stuff in between pages. The Little Sabra bought me One Hundred Years of Solitude for my birthday, but I haven’t started it yet. I will, though, I promise.
Speaking of the Little Sabra, I could talk about her, but we haven’t done anything too terribly exciting since we got back from Boston. I think the most interesting thing we've done recently was go to Baltimore to meet my folks for snow balls.
There’s stuff going on in the news, but it who really cares that Paris Hilton got out of jail?
LtL and I are embarking on a new website, so that’s sort of got me jazzed, but as neither of us know anything about Drupal, the site is rather slow going. I don’t think I want to talk about it here, though.
What else? I joined the Smithsonian Institution a few weeks ago and just got my first issue of thier magazine. I started reading that, and there are some very interesting articles about very interesting people.
Finally, I should wrap this up with a general bitch about how there are so many people out there doing amazing and interesting things, and here I am sitting on my ass fantasizing about doing amazing things. How do they do it? Some kid (well, 23—gee, I’m feeling old calling a 23-year old a kid) just flew around the world in a plane he built, someone else is feeding the hungry, and still another citizen of the world is building mud huts in the middle of Africa, and here I sit on the 9th floor of NASA HQ, cooled by the A/C, typing away at my computer with little actual work to do, fantasizing about articles I could write, TV shows I could produce, non-profits I could start, websites I could develop, and still I sit while others do.
I just finished reading Rich Smith’s You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree. I was at Borders in Silver Spring a few weeks back, and I saw this book lying on the table. I picked it up on a whim and bought it. The premise on the back reminded me of a crazy little adventure I’d like to partake it one day.
There is much to say about this book. Mostly, it’s one of those books that forces the reader to utter one of two possible things:
1) “How come I can’t get published?”
2) “I could have done it better!”
Now, I have to say that usually this is just Monday-Morning-Quarterback talk, and most of the people who utter such comments couldn’t get published if the publisher begged them to write something, and no, most likely they couldn’t do it better. Admittedly, I have yet to get a book published, but believe you me, I definitely could have done it better.
Technically, Smith is a fine writer (in fact, he is [as of publication] majoring in journalism, and I’m sure has already written his share of short stores). The book flows from event to event, and he crafts some fine analogies and metaphors. Ne’ertheless, where he falters is in the story, not the storytelling.
Basically, the premise of the book is that Smith decides that he is going to come the US (he’s British—Cornish to be exact) and break 25 laws in this great country of ours. The catch is (and there is always a catch, isn’t there?) that he is going to break ridiculous laws that there is little reason they are still on the books (apparently, in one town it’s illegal to kiss for longer than 5 minutes while in another it’s illegal to drink alcohol out of bucket while sitting on the curb). He succeeds at some and not at others. Still others he decides to avoid (e.g., somewhere it is illegal to tie your giraffe to a streetlamp). He and his mate, Bateman, travel from California to New York, stopping in rural America to attempt to break the law. Along the way, they meet some interesting folks, and we get to hear a brief snippet about them.
As I said, I think I could have done it better. Apparently, there are a shit-ton of laws still on the books. Why did he pick the ones he did and not others? Why not attempt to break them all? Or at least try to break some that are more interesting than the one in Boston, where it’s illegal to wear a goatee. I would have liked to have seen him give a little more background on the laws he was breaking. Why were they created? What happened to force the powers that be to write such absurd legislation? Likewise, he could have spent a bit more time telling us about the preparation that he needed for some laws instead of recounting each drinking bout he and Bateman partook in (I think that Hooters or WalMart sponsored the spree). Likewise, some of the details leave you wondering if he in fact did make this trip. They are in Georgia or the Carolinas at one point, and they decided to go to Baltimore because they don’t want to travel through West Virginia to get to DC. I was a little confused. This wasn’t the only time this happened. The whole leg on the Eastern Seaboard seemed to go rather oddly. Now, it’s possible that he just didn’t have the days right and was writing after the fact, but a simple look at a map will tell you that
1) they jumped over states just to backtrack,
2) they took way out-of-the way routes (maybe the were relying on Mapquest), and
3) they wasted a lot of time.
He also says things that just didn’t really make a lot of sense. He says that while they were in Ocean City, Maryland, they traveled back over the bridge a few minutes away. If he’s talking about the Bay Bridge or even the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, they are more than a few minutes away. Perhaps he’s talking about the Route 50 bridge over the Assawoman (yea, that’s really the name of it) Bay. Later, they are in DC, and he’s looking for a kite. He heads down to the Golden Triangle to look for a store that sells a kite. There are folks who walk around the area and help tourists find things. Interestingly, they are unable to help him find a kite shop. It isn’t too surprising that there isn’t a kite shop in that area, but what is surprising is
1) that he was in the Golden Triangle when he was trying to break a law on the National Mall. True, the White House is a borderline for the Triangle, but the White House is pretty far off the center of the Mall.
2) None of the people he spoke with (people who are trained to help tourists, keep in mind) thought to send him the to the National Air and Space Museum, where the shop does indeed sell kites (at least as of this publication).
About 3 years ago, I had thought about writing a book on all the dumb laws still on the books, but I must admit that it never occurred to me to actually try to break them. Kudos to Smith for thinking that one up. I think it would be fun to try and do this, but I fear that now everyone would see me as nothing but a copycat (which, I guess, I would be). But my story wouldn’t be the same as his, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? Who’s up for a road trip? We could try to beat him at his own game. He never succeeded in breaking all 25. Of course, who knows if he really broke any of them. Supposedly, Bateman was taking pics of his law-breaking buddy, but none of them appear in the book.
Anyway, I would love to go out and try this and see if I could get my version of the spree published. Would a publisher be willing to publish a book like that if someone else already did it?
What is my crazy little adventure? I’m not telling. But I will let you know when it hits the bookshelves.
I just finished reading two very different books, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both of them:
Since my days in grad school, I have prided myself on my skill with grammar. In fact, when I ran across Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I thought that I had identified my clique: the sticklers. I proudly added that to my name (much like a newly barred barrister would add esq.): Jo Cose, stickler.
Fortunately, while perusing the shelves of Books-A-Million in Dupont Circle, I came across Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies. I realized that 1) I’m not really enough of a grammarian to point out others errors, and 2) the old adage is true: “it’s better to have everyone believe you are a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.” So, I admit it, I’m a reformed stickler. While I still cringe when I hear bad grammar, and I will still post things here in a snobby fashion, I will try harder not to be quite so verbose in pointing it out (unless it’s truly necessary—like when I’m writing a letter at work and the illiterate secretary tries to argue with me).
Casagrande uses lots of self-deprecating humor to point out problems, and uses many current pop culture references that I fear will not be so cute, clever, or identifiable in the not-too-distant future. Nevertheless, she does a good job selecting the more important grammatical issues that plague most people. She has a wonderful sense of prose that comes off as conversational (stand-up actually at times), and it’s almost like listening to someone tell a story of how they discovered something wonderful (or solved a frustrating problem).
Not to sound like a grammar snob after saying that I’m going to try harder not to be one, but I did find that I knew almost all of the rules she discussed, which actually made me feel good, as that means that I’m learning and retaining this stuff…so that made me feel good about my grammar skills.
If you are at all moderately interested in English grammar and always wanted to know why you say “it is I” when someone inquires “Who is it?” or why, when someone calls me and says, “May I speak with Jo Cose?” I always answer, “this is he,” then this book is definitely for you!
The other book I finished this evening was Cirque du Soleil® The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All by John U. Bacon and Lyn Heward.
I’m not normally into motivational books, but a friend recommended it. He is a fellow NASA employee, and his division all read it (the bosses, I’m sure, thought it would help morale). Knowing that I’m extremely unhappy with my job at the moment, he thought that it would help me as well. As I just mentioned, I’m not normally into motivational books, but this one was really good.
On the surface, it’s about a guy named Frank who is a sports agent for a major company. He has become complacent in his job, and one day he realizes that he is just going through the paces and getting nothing out of life. He is in Las Vegas on business, and decides to wander through the casino. He finds himself in an empty theatre where folks are rehearsing. Before he can leave, he is met by Diane, who is some big wig with Cirque du Soleil. She offers him a free ticket to see the show, and of course he’s sucked in. He is inspired, and finagles his way to getting to become a part of the Cirque family—to experience it from the inside.
Of course, it’s all really just a metaphor for how you should look at the world. You should love your job, and it should inspire you to be creative. He meets the most interesting people who spew motivational anecdotes like so many drunken frat boys spew dinner after binge drinking.
While I didn’t really get motivated to love my job (that’s the biggest problem for me; the book is based on the premise that you actually enjoyed your job at one point in time), I did get more out of it than I thought. The basic message is that you need to take the bull by the horns, be willing to try things (even if you fail), and force yourself out of complacency and get out of your comfort zone once in a while if you ever want to achieve anything.
Yea, yea, it’s basically the same message that all books in this genre teach. Maybe it was the theatre leitmotif that made this one different for me, or perhaps it was that it was a work of fiction (not one of those “I was there too, and I know what you’re going through” type of books), but I really enjoyed it, and was able to see that some of the lessons they were trying to teach apply to life and not just work. I was happy to see that one of the lessons was that deadlines were good because they force you to work fast, be creative, and (dare I say) think outside the box. When I told MO (my old professor) many years ago that I wanted to go back for my Ph.D., he said, “Why? If you have a book, just write it. You don’t need to be in school to do that.” My response was that I need real deadlines, not self-imposed ones. It is too easy to push off self-imposed deadlines, but when someone else gives them to me, and there are consequences to missing them, well, that’s motivation for me. I work well under pressure. It’s nice to see that others think that way as well.
Anyway, if you are interested in Cirque and/or are interested in the motivational book genre, I definitely recommend this one. It’s a quick enjoyable read that will at the very least make you want to go to the theatre.
I just finished reading Susan Bordo’s The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private. I saw it at Barnes & Noble months ago, and I finally got around to buying it and reading it. I’m conflicted in my opinions of the book. When I first began reading it, I really enjoyed it; however, as I progressed through it, I found myself liking it less and less. I did not like the final bit (Coda, as she titles her final chapter).
The book addressed the larger idea of the male body and images of it in popular culture, but there didn’t really seem to be a thesis or unified theme. It had the feel of several individual articles, lectures, or musings put together in the central theme of the male body. Overall, I found the lack of unity a little disconcerting. On the whole, she is a pretty good writer, and the prose flows smoothly, like you are sitting across from her listening to her tell you the story. I like that ability in an author. I guess it’s really just the content of the book that bored me.
I think I may have figured out why I am not interested in gender or masculine studies. Throughout the book, I learned all about Bordo’s struggles and triumphs as she came to accept her body for what it was, came to accept men’s bodies, and came to realize that even though she is a woman, she is strong and can be whatever she wants to be (thus the ardent feminist that she is). Likewise, men who write on the male body also seem to be using their research and writing as some sort of therapy in their efforts to become comfortable in their bodies.
I was raised in a home where both of my parents loved each other, freely expressed their feelings towards each other, and equally loved me and my siblings and showered us with affection. My mother and father shared everything and neither was dominate in any sphere. True, my mother typically cooked dinner and cleaned the dishes, but my dad washed the clothes and tucked the kids into bed. If my mother ever needed someone else to cook for any reason, my dad could slip into an apron as easily as into his suit. My mother was able to get us up in the morning and make us breakfast or mow the lawn and prune the bushes if my dad’s back was hurting. They shared their lives, and they shared the chores. I suppose that many of the responsibilities fell within cultural gender roles, but both could move in and out of those roles when necessary. This last point is the most important. My siblings and I were raised seeing both of our parents doing both things. My mom and my dad worked and had careers. They raised their children (2 girls and 1 boy) to believe that we could be anything we wanted to be, regardless of sex (or gender).
As such, my sisters never needed to come to grips with being girls who were told that they should go to school, find nice men, and have babies. I was never encouraged to play baseball, whistle at women, and work while wifey stayed home bare-foot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. We were raised by a strong independent woman who went out and worked and was the head of the departments she worked in. We were raised by a man who was strong and independent and was a manager and supervisor in the division he worked in for the federal government.
This is why I think that I’m not interested in the discussions that go on within the gender and masculinity studies world. I know who I am, I’m comfortable with my body, with my being a man, with my interactions with women, with my sexuality, with me. I don’t need to read other people’s testimonials of how they learned to accept who they are or how they came to handle being a man in an era where there are women in the workforce. I can’t relate to the stories Bordo tells about men objectifying women (I don’t mean to imply that don’t do this, because this is human, but I don’t do it all the time, nor do I do it with every woman who walks past me—I would argue that this is where a healthy obsession with pornography is a good thing. Here one can objectify women, not feel guilty, and still be able to interact in a mature, professional manner in the real world. The myriad issues with the porn industry not withstanding, of course).
Having said all of this, I recognize and accept that I am probably in the minority, and I must stress that I don’t think that gender and masculinity studies is a waste of time or that it isn’t viable research topics, I’m merely elucidating why I am not interested in the genre. Having said all of that, I also recognize that I have little choice but to delve into it somewhat if I really want my dissertation to be the best it can be; I just don’t think that it needs to be the lens that focuses all of my research or the theories that I carry with me for the rest of my scholarly career, nor does it need to influence every idea that I have.