Category Archives: Social Commentary

Gay Marriage…or Not

Last week was a milestone (or not) in the issue. For the umpty-gajillionth time, a judge–or in this case, a panel of three judges of the 9th District Court of Appeals–has said that banning gay marriage is discriminatory, at least in California, thus killing the passage of Proposition 8.  Prop 8, aka the “Protection of Marriage Act” defines marriage as existing only between a man and a woman.  And that always works out so well.

Prop 8 passed by 52% to 48%, which is in itself confusing.  It’s like a double negative.  In other words, 52% of voters were for the ban.

But what was interesting to me was that I saw a story about it on CBS News this week.  They interviewed one of the supporters of the ban (See?  There we go again.)  He said, “We aren’t trying to deny gay people any rights.  We just don’t want them to call it marriage”.  Or something to that effect.  And I just wanted to scream, like I have for years, What do you care?  Do you hear yourself?  You are drawing a line in the sand over a WORD.  ONE word.

Ah, but hold on there for a minute.  Then they interviewed an opponent (you know, someone who was against the For people.)  She’s a gay woman who got married during the short window of time when it was legal.  She said, in essence, that marriage is important because it has such emotional significance.  And I wanted to say, Do you hear yourself?  You are…well, never mind.  Re-read the end of the previous paragraph.

But that, of course, is the answer:  it has emotional significance on both sides.

I don’t know enough about the provisions in states where “civil unions” but not “marriage” is permitted to know whether or not you really do have all the same rights as if you’re married.  Somehow I doubt it, but if it’s really true, we are back to that ONE WORD.

In the end, marriage is really a legal contract, which if you boil it down to its essence is about property and inheritance.  It’s also good for (theoretically) determining which offspring are yours, if you’re a man, and for breeding a) farm workers and b) soldiers who have to be on your side.  We imbue it with emotional significance, particularly in the West.

Here are two examples:  a history of the British monarchy.  Osama bin Laden.  None of them got married for “love”.  That’s a new thing, relatively speaking.

The origins of marriage are a hot topic in anthropology.  But humans and societies have changed.  I’d say the majority of people today who marry do so for “love”, even if they are driven in some cases by motivations they don’t fully understand, and which may be biological in nature.

Today, the next step in California’s legal battle is an appeal to the Supreme Court.  Which both sides were itching for anyway, no matter who won or lost.  And it’s about time.  It’s time for the Supreme Court to step up to the plate…although they may not.  They’ve refused to hear similar cases in the past.

I hope they do, so we can start on the beginning of the end of arguing over one word.

Ouch! I Broke A Nail!

It’s possible that you thought Fakename had run out of trivial subjects to discuss, but you would be very, very wrong. 

So today’s topic is:  long fingernails. 

I come from a long line of short-fingernailed women.  My grandmothers were both country women who had to, well, do stuff with their hands.  My mother was a nurse.  When I was quite a small child, I asked her why she didn’t have long beautiful fingernails like I saw on TV, and she said, “Because I’m a nurse”.  That made perfect sense to me.  She had working hands.  To this day, long fingernails scream to me “IDLE RICH”.  Or today, it’s more properly “emulating the idle rich”.

When I was five, I started taking piano lessons.  When I was nine, we moved to North Carolina and I got a new piano teacher who was a fanatic about nails.  But she didn’t have anything to worry about with me.  I had already internalized the importance of short nails, because I’d found that I couldn’t “feel” the keys if my nails were too long.  Your sense of touch is in your finger TIPS, not in your finger pads.  Go ahead, give it a test.  Touch your knee with a fingertip.  Now touch it with the fingerpad of the same finger.  I’ll wait. (Cue “Jeopardy!” theme.)  See what I mean? 

When I was fifteen, I started playing guitar (badly), and you most certainly cannot play a guitar with long fingernails. 

Now let us fast forward to me being in college.  I had stopped playing piano and rarely played guitar either, so I thought I would give growing long fingernails a shot.  I was delighted to learn that I had very strong nails that were not prone to the expected maladies, especially, splitting. 

Nevertheless, the first thing I discovered was that nails took an awful lot of time.  I just couldn’t get used to the concept of focusing an inordinate amount of attention on something dead that was constantly getting in your way.  Of course I continued to do it anyway, since as we all know, individualism is critical as long as you do it the same way everyone else does. 

Then when I was in my early twenties, I broke a nail while reaching into the washing machine for a load of wet laundry.  YEEOWW! I said, along with other unprintable things.  Because in spite of breaking a nail being a sort of metaphor for “idle rich”, in real life it hurts like a (fill in the blank).  Because nails don’t break at the tip.  They break all the way down to the quick.  And it looks really stupid to have three long, polished, perfectly manicured nails next to a bloody, bandaged stump. 

That was IT for me.  I cut off all my nails and have never gone there since. 

So fast forward again to the early ’90’s:  We used to have a type of cash register (which in my biz we call “fee computers”) which required an overlay.  I was never quite clear about how they worked, but I do know this:  the fee computer would not work without the overlay.  All our cashiers were in a contest to see who could grow the longest fingernails.  Since they couldn’t use their fingertips to operate the fee computer, they would use their fingernails.  Over time, or with one particularly sharp jab, the nail would sever the wires in the overlay,  and each one was $300.  I also was never quite clear about why we couldn’t regulate the length of an employee’s nails.  We told them what they had to wear, how long their hair could be, and what kind of jewelry they could wear (if any).  Human Resources–who understands it?  In the end, we solved this in a low-tech manner.  We provided them all with (unsharpened) pencils, and they would punch the keys with the eraser end. 

This year, when I went to the Tax Collector’s office to pay my property taxes, I was looking forward to seeing Talon Woman, whom I’ve seen every year for the last ten years.  These days, it’s very hard to tell if people’s nails are real or fake, but in her case, there was no doubt they were real.  Her nails were so long they started curving under, like they were lost and seeking to reconnect with her hand.  But she wasn’t there.  She probably had to retire after putting out an eye, or both, while trying to apply makeup. 

She of course was completely incapable of operating her computer with her hands.  So guess what?  She used a pencil eraser. 

All this is to say that state-of-the-art technology is not always the answer.  Sometimes an easel, a paper pad,  and a Magic Marker work better than a laptop, especially when the laptop unexpectedly balks and refuses to open PowerPoint.  My rule is:  always have short nails, and carry a pencil eraser.

Let’s Talk About Subprime Loans (And Stop Yawning)

If you want to have an intelligent discussion about subprime loans, then …don’t look at me.  I have tried to understand the whole issue.  I’ve listened to countless NPR segments about it (which, granted, is not the same as doing in-depth reading, but frankly, there is only so much yawning I can stand myself), and I vaguely get the part about the mortgage meltdown and the collapse of Wall Street, all of which seem to be entertwined.  There were credit default swaps and securitizations and all that kind of stuff, but there is an extent to which understanding it is like learning to speak Urdu.  I would have needed to start way earlier, like when I was five. 

Here is what I do know:  I have a subprime loan, my very own personal self.  And the question is…who owns it?  And the answer is:  No one knows.  And there, you see, is Fakename’s definition of “securitization”.  Little pieces of my house belong to entities all over the globe, and if they own a little piece, they don’t even know it. 

Here’s my story.  I bought my house in 2002, and the loan was granted by I Don’t Remember, because the loan was sold already by the time I got to closing to Ocwen Federal Bank.  Doing business only in Florida and California.  Then…Ocwen Federal Bank ceased to exist.  Now I pay my money to Ocwen Loan Servicing, which, as the following article explains, is an “enforcer”.  They collect the money for the Owners…um, the Investors…and that is an entirely amorphous group.  I presume that if anyone ever decided to foreclose on my house, it would be Ocwen, and that I can rest assured that two guys from Nigeria and one from Saudi Arabia will not be knocking on my door.  But who knows?  In Florida, the courts are hammering out foreclosures as fast as they can, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s here that someone finally said…wait, who owns this property?  Who has the actual right to foreclose? 

While perusing Ocwen’s website today, I saw a link to this article from Time Magazine, which profiles Ocwen and its policies.  The article is entitled Forestalling Foreclosure (clever title, huh?)  I was pretty much impressed, because it seems that Ocwen agrees with the question I’ve been posing all along.  Wouldn’t it be better to have SOME money coming in (by modifying a loan), than by foreclosing?  Because by foreclosing, then you own a house (okay, Ocwen doesn’t, but someone does) that you then can’t sell to anyone else in the current economic environment? 

In the interest of full disclosure, no one, either Ocwen or the two guys from Nigeria,  has ever tried to foreclose on my house.  But I have, for the last two years, hung on by the skin of my teeth, and I’ve had to have help to keep it going.  My problem is that my income has been static but my expenses have all gone up.  It’s that simple.  And it’s the same for everyone I know. 

So I really get the anger of people who are outraged by “bailouts”.  It isn’t just Wall Street…it’s that you have to have defaulted on your mortgage to get help.  We fall somewhere in the losing middle.  We aren’t either rich enough to get tax breaks, nor poor enough to qualify for aid.  That, I think, is the true meaning of “middle class”. 

But what can you do?  As Donald Rumsfeld famously said (which was his undoing, even though it was true), You go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.  And we live in a real world.  Sad, but true. 

Civilized Discussion…

…requires restraint.  Somehow, restraint has gotten a bad name.  It’s as if you hold back your first, immediate impression to strike out, you are automatically considered to be Caspar Milquetoast.

Here at Fakename Blog headquarters, we reject that philosophy. 

We believe in good manners.  We do not believe that just because our comments are posted to people we will likely never meet,  that means we are absolved of the responsibility to be polite.  Pretty much everything I say, I ask myself if I would say it in person. 

So when I say something negative, you can take it to the bank that I considered it and said it anyway.  I’m not quite ready for sainthood, but I hope everyone will agree that I don’t do name-calling.  Name-calling is so testosterone-based, not that women don’t engage in it too.    The people I admire most are cynical only in private. 

Restraint is really hard.  It’s easy to blurt out whatever crosses your mind.  It’s easy to disengage and give up.  It’s really hard to monitor yourself and make a conscious decision to put yourself forward when you expect you will be denigrated for it. 

So here at Fakename Blog headquarters, our editors have had to do some editing.  If you find yourself among the edited, give it some (restrained) thought.

Grocery Voyeurism Revisited

It’s been a while since I shared any grocery voyeurism.  To refresh your memory, this is a game wherein you guess what the person in front of you in the 10 Items or Fewer line plans to do with six cans of tomato sauce, a bunch of celery, and one can of Raid.

This however, is a new variety of grocery voyeurism, actually involving a conversation between the person in line behind me and his son, who appeared to be about 7 years old. 

Dad:  No you cannot have a Coke. 

Son:  (Whine.)

Dad:  Okay, you can have a Sprite. 

Son:  (is heard to be opening the door of the cooler before Dad changes his mind, but he was too late.)

Dad:  You know what, never mind.  Get a water.  There’s just too much sugar in soft drinks.

Son:  (Whine.)

Dad:  No, get a water.  Now go pick out a bag of M&M’s.   

I actually did not invent this game.  When I lived in Memphis, I knew a writer named John Ryan, who was constantly jotting down things he overheard to use in his books (the most famous of which is The Redneck Bride). 

He once told me that his favorite overheard line ever occurred in a grocery store, when the cashier complimented a woman in front of him on how cute her baby was.  “Well, thanks”, said the mother, “But do you know this baby is 8 months old and still won’t eat crowder peas?”  Now there is grocery voyeurism at its finest.

The Health Care “Debate”

As I commented today on Nick’s blog, I haven’t seen any debate.  To be exact, I said I haven’t seen any goddamn debate.  All I’ve seen is a bunch of hysterical people, like the woman weeping her ugly eyes out saying “I want my America back!”  As Helen, of the immensely popular Margaret and Helen blog said, the America she wants back must be the one where a black man does not grow up to be President. All I’ve seen is debate being shouted down.   I’ve seen people openly carrying guns to an event where the President is scheduled to speak.  When did we start allowing that?  What I hear is, it’s legal.  I also saw a comment that said those people probably had snipers trained on their ignorant persons from the nanosecond they showed up.  I have no doubt that’s true.  Remind me to tell you sometime about when I lived in New Orleans and personally had the occasion to witness said snipers in place.  So let’s acknowledge that it’s legal.  But at the very, very least, it’s rude. 

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s talk about the villains in the story.  You get to take your pick, but the rules are that you have to prioritize.  Your choices are:  doctors, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and the government.  Hint:  you don’t get to pick the government.  The government is what we rely on to protect us.  And you don’t get to pick who you want the government to protect you from.  You don’t get to say that Osama Bin Laden is fair game, but Bernie Madoff and his ilk isn’t. 

Of our three remaining choices, I’d say that doctors have the least blame.  Which is not to say”no blame”.  The second least blamable is the pharmaceutical industry.  Granted, they are raking in millions, but this isn’t about castigating capitalism.  Profit is not a four-letter word.  The pharmaceutical industry has come up with life-saving drugs, and research is expensive (after all, they have to pay doctors to do it).  That leaves us with the insurance companies, which bingo, you guessed, is my prime suspect.  Doctors agree with me.  But all three of these villains are trapped in a system which none of them can bail out of on their own. 

So here is Fakename’s prescription for “fixing” healthcare.  Make all insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies non-profit.  (Like that would ever happen lol. Especially since it might play havoc with your investments.) Pay for doctors to go to medical school–anyone who wants to go into that field should not be discouraged.  Too many idealistic people are changed for the worse by the reality that they will be 50 years old before they get out from under their student loans.  In fact, if you did just that one thing, pay for medical school education, it would make a huge difference.  Then doctors might retain some of their idealism, instead of bowing to the need to make as much money as possible.  In the U.S., doctors are rich (well, after age 50).  In other countries, not so much.  In other words, they don’t do it for the money. 

It sort of comes down to what you value.  Doctors are not miracle workers, they are craftsmen (and women).  They hold no more value to me to me than Jeff the Mechanic.  In fact, increasingly I find that I have to do most of the work for my own health care, and thankfully the Internet is my Second Opinion.  Now that I think about it, Jeff the Mechanic is worth more, since the Internet will never tell me what I need to know to replace a head gasket. 

My point, in case you were wondering, is that I am terminally angry with these people who are sabotaging reform, in the name of protecting their “individual freedom”.  They don’t even have a clue what they’re talking about.  I can deal with people disagreeing with me in a thoughtful way.  But I am done dealing with stupid, and the apologists for stupid.

How Much Do You Weigh?

Now that we’ve addressed the all-important question of what sex you are, we turn our attention to your weight.  The occasion for this is a column in the New York Times by Clark Hoyt, the public editor.  The public editor is basically an ombudsman for readers.  Yesterday’s column is entitled The Insult Was Extra Large

First, however, let us begin with a comment made to me not long ago by friend and fellow blogger Nick Hardy.  And by the way, Nick, I’ve mentioned you so often lately that I expect a raise and a reserved parking space.  What he said was, “White women are obsessed with weight”.  I was like, “We are, I mean I am, I mean we are (splutter, splutter) not!!!  Maybe.”

And now a personal story.  In January of 2005, I weighed 138 pounds.  I know this because that month, my sister and I and a friend undertook a year-long campaign to lose weight in such a way as not to kill ourselves, but to sort of methodically plod (waddle?) toward the goal.  Therefore, by January of 2006 I had lost…five pounds!  Those who have met me today would have a hard time picturing me at 138, or even my hard-earned, svelte 133.  But I can prove it by this photo, taken in August 2004.  Kindly refrain from suggesting that the beverage Fakename is holding in some way contributed to her size.


So then, in 2006, I lost 20 more pounds due to back-to-back illnesses (from which I am fully recovered, thanks).  And I never gained the weight back.  Which is just pefectly fine with me!  I couldn’t be happier!  Apparently my eating habits changed while I was ill, so now I’m able to maintain at 113 without it being a big struggle.  There are no recent photos of me to prove the difference, but there are witnesses who can attest to the truth of my statement. 

And now we return to the public editor.  Recently, a writer for the Times covered the opening of a J.C. Penney store in Midtown Manhattan.  Oh, the horror!  Here’s a quote: 

“Why would this dowdy Middle American entity waddle into Midtown in its big old shorts and flip-flops” without even a makeover of its logo, asked the columnist, Cintra Wilson, a virtual sneer seeming to drip from her keyboard. She said Penney’s “has always trafficked in knockoffs that aren’t quite up to Canal Street’s illegal standards”; “a good 96 percent” of the clothing is polyester; the racks are full of sizes 10, 12 and 16, but not Wilson’s 2; the petites department has plenty of clothing “for women nearly as wide as they are tall”; and the store “has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen. They probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on.”  Which led some readers to ask the question, Is the New York Times arrogant?  Would this not be a question akin to whether or not the proverbial bear defecates in the proverbial woods?  Of course it is.  That’s why we like it.  But this article was probably taking a good thing too far. 

According to J.C. Penney’s vice president for communications, the average woman wears a size 12 and weighs 150.  And I can tell you that if they’re white, not a damn one of them is happy about it. 

So last week, I had a meeting with a man who kindly inquired after my health, then threw in, gratis, that he thought I needed to gain some weight.  What!!???!!!  I wonder if the two words “sexual” and “harassment”, when used side by side in a sentence, ring any bells for him?  The reason comments such as this make me uncomfortable is that it means you are paying entirely too much attention to my body to suit me, based on the type of relationship we have.  If I want you to comment on my body, you’ll know it.  Or maybe not.  That’s the thing about sexual harassment by men.  Those who do it have often deluded themselves into believing they were given a “signal” that it was welcomed.  Sexual harassment by women is a whole ‘nother animal.   

You know, in those “sensitivity” training sessions they tell men they are treading on dangerous ground even to comment on a woman’s clothing.  That’s too purist and PC for me.  In the above cited incident, I responded with the time-honored Southern phrase, “Shut your mouth!”  Translated:  “Perish the thought!”  I said I was perfectly happy.  Not knowing he had been gifted with a way out, he persisted.  “Still”, he said, “You could use a few more pounds.”  Well thank God I know that now.  In order to be more attractive to you, let me rush out and have two Big Macs and a super-size chocolate shake for lunch. 

As long as we are talking about thinness, let me say that I’ve always been attracted to thin men.  I want to be able to feel your hip bones.  Which is as far as Fakename will drive along the road to pornography. 

However highly annoyed I was by the “you need to gain weight” comments, I could not escape the nagging questions.  Am I too thin?  Do I look sickly?  Frail?  Would you add a giant serving of French Fries to that Big Mac order?  But we are, I mean, I am, I mean we are, Not.  Obsessed.  Maybe.

What Sex Are You?

You’re a man, you say?  Well step right up and prove it.  No, no, keep your pants on, because visual evidence is not going to do it.  I need to see a report from your geneticist, your endocrinologist, and your psychologist.  Of course, as far as I know, men have never had to prove they’re men (except in the usual ways, one of which is being combative).  No, in real life, it’s women who have to prove they are women. 

Let’s say that you are (allegedly) a man, and you are in a footrace with another “man”, whom you secretly suspect is a woman.  You win.  Do you then say, I demand to know if my opponent was really a man?  Of course not.  You say, “I won!  Case closed!”  But what if “she” wins?  Do you then say, I demand to know if she is really a woman, because if she is, that gave her an unfair advantage?  Of course not–because that scenario would never happen.  Male runners will always outrun female runners, unless the male trips over his shoelace.  And that will never happen either, because that’s why God invented Velcro. 

In real life, it’s women who complain when they are beaten by men who are “pretending” to be women.  Which really would be an unfair advantage (see above, re:  “Male runners will always outrun…”).  But what if she isn’t pretending? 

The occasion for this topic is a blip of a snippet of a story I heard on NPR yesterday, concerning an 18 year-old South African woman named Caster Semenya, who on Thursday of this week won a gold medal in the 800 meters in the world championships in Berlin.  Some of her competitors complain that she is really a man, but it’s unclear whether it was them or someone involved in the specimen collection process for the anti-doping tests who officially raised the question of her gender.  (They watch you pee.  In person.  Naked–at least the peeing parts.)  So the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) is now investigating her gender.  Which it turns out is not as simple as it used to be.  It used to be that if you were found to have a Y chromosome, you were male, end of sentence.  As I said, it turns out not to be that simple. 

I will now refer you to two pieces I read today in the New York Times.  The first is an essay written by one Alice Dreger, “Professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University”, entitled “Where’s the Rulebook for Sex Verification?”  See it here.  In case you aren’t interested in reading the whole thing, I’ll quote an important paragraph:

“A little biology: On the Y chromosome, a gene called SRY usually makes a fetus grow as a male. It turns out, though, that SRY can show up on an X, turning an XX fetus essentially male. And if the SRY gene does not work on the Y, the fetus develops essentially female.

Even an XY fetus with a functioning SRY can essentially develop female. In the case of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, the ability of cells to “hear” the masculinizing hormones known as androgens is lacking. That means the genitals and the rest of the external body look female-typical, except that these women lack body hair (which depends on androgen-sensitivity).”

Did you get that?  Yeah, me too. 

Now we turn to the second article, which is more factual, but first, let’s take a look at Ms. Semenya.  (So far I haven’t seen any jokes made about this, so let me be the first to say that it’s unfortunate that her last name begins with the word “semen”.)


The second article is “Gold Is Awarded Amid Dispute Over Runner’s Sex”.  See it  here.  There are a couple of quotes from this article that struck me.  Here is one: 

“Chuene and some South African athletes suggested that there might be an anti-African bias at work. “The question I ask is if this were a European person, would these questions be raised?” said Ruben Ramolefi, a track athlete for South Africa. “It seems there’s hypocrisy behind it.””

Oh no.  Not THAT again.  Fellow blogger and now close friend Nick Hardy and I have extensively discussed the issue of looking for racism.  You are guaranteed to always find it.  The same holds for sexism.  If you start with the premise that it’s there somewhere, everything you see and hear will confirm for you that it explains everything.  That’s why I posted the picture first.  This woman (?) could have purple skin with pink polka dots and she would still look like a man.

But she thinks of herself as a woman, her family thinks of her as a woman, so who is to say?  What fascinates me about this that the professionals–the geneticists, the endocrinologists, the psychologists, and in her case, the gynecologists–may say whatever they will, but this is not a medical or scientific problem.  It’s a philosophical problem. 

I close with another quote from the second article: 

“We can get quite philosophical here — what does it mean to be male or female?” said Dr. Richard Auchus, a specialist in disorders of sexual differentiation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“For 99 percent of the population it’s easy to determine,” he added. “But one percent of the population have conditions that make it not so straightforward.”

Be glad that you are in the 99%.  Or are you?  Prove it.  Oh wait.  Isn’t this where we started?

That Whole Gates Thing

I know, I know, it is (hopefully) about to be old news…”It” being the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Harvard professor, by a Cambridge police officer for disorderly conduct on his own front porch.  If you don’t know the details of this incident, you have a) been in a coma, or b) are presently in a coma.    If you’re awake now, you’ll have to catch up on your own, because I’m going straight to commentary.

I’ve read opinion pieces about it from all sorts of people and sources I respect.  That includes Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald.  Probably one of the best things I read is the NY Times blog called The Opinionator–which gives you samples of what’s happening in the blogosphere from both sides of any particular issue.  The entry for July 27th is called  How To Talk To A Cop.

But by far the person who totally got it right was Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, in his July 28th column entitled Pique and the Professor.  It was about power.

So here is the Fakename take on it.  Gates was having a really bad day.  He was sick, he had bronchitis.  He was returning from a trip to China, and was probably jet-lagged to death, and jet-lag does seriously bad things to your brain.  It must have seemed like the last straw to him that when he got home, his front door was jammed.  Little did he know that that was just the next to last straw.  So when the police officer asked him to step outside and produce ID, implying of course that he might be a burglar, he snapped.  Not to put too fine a point on it, he became an asshole, but under the circumstances, it’s understandable.  The real problem is that being an asshole is not against the law. 

He did produce ID.  And from the second the police officer knew he was who he said he was, and that it was his house, that should have been the end of it, regardless of how much verbal abuse Gates may have been heaping on him.  As the guy with the gun, it’s his job to defuse the situation.  Instead, in my opinion, he arrested Gates because he was pissed off, and because he could.  “Disorderly conduct” is a totally…excuse my language…bullshit charge.  So sure, they were both “wrong”, but the police officer was most wrong.  He had the greater burden to defuse the situation and he failed, because he let his personal feelings become involved.  Much has been made of the fact that the officer has taught courses in racial sensitivity or racial profiling or something.  I think they need to find a new instructor.  (Plus, look at him…he looks mad…and mean.)

So last night, I visited a friend and her sister and this was one of the topics of our conversation.  I will charitably describe all of us as middle-aged white women.  We all agreed….the police officer was wrong.  However, we also all agreed that we were glad it happened, because it gave us a break from reporting about Sarah Palin.

Too Much Drama

This has to do with two seemingly unrelated stories.  Story Number One:  On Monday, July 20th, I arrived at work and read the local newspaper as usual.  The top headline was about a hostage situation the previous day  in a relatively affluent neighborhood.  I say “relatively affluent”  because it’s a “planned community”.  A planned community in the best sense of the word, in my view.  The developers did a good job in this case.  They didn’t develop a gated community, where the rich are insulated from the riffraff.  There are million dollar homes there, but they exist side by side with more modest homes, townhouses, and even apartments.  It’s more “real world”. 

The hostage situation described a standoff in one of the apartments, where a woman had allowed a man she knew from the Internet to move into her apartment.  The initial report said he had hit her in the face with a shotgun, but she managed to escape and was taken to the hospital and treated for “minor injuries”, then released.  Hold up, here.  How do you get minor injuries after being hit in the face with a shotgun?  I’m thinking broken cheekbone, broken nose, broken eyesocket, missing teeth.  One of two things happened here–the newspaper got it wrong, or she exaggerated what happened.  Maybe both.  In any case, after she escaped, the guy barricaded himself in the apartment for 3 1/2 hours but was finally talked out by the police department’s tactical team. 

Story Number Two.  About 15 minutes after I finished reading this story, “Brian” walks into my office.  “Brian” is a guy I previously made famous in my Flirting With Fakename series.  He’s been out of town since June 26, and he hoped to be gone permanently, but due to a glitch in the project he was in charge of, he has had to return.  Before he left, he told me he planned to spend a week in British Columbia, which I assumed was a vacation.  In the interim, a third party informed me that it was not exactly that…”Brian” was performing a chivalrous deed by accompanying a woman of his acquaintance to British Columbia where she was getting a divorce from a Canadian citizen.  She needed moral support.  I said, “I’m having a hard time putting ‘Brian’ and ‘chivalry’ in the same sentence.”  Third party guy says,”You think?  I think he is very chivalrous.”  Let that be a lesson in trusting other men to define what is and is not chivalry. 

My first words to “Brian” were, How was British Columbia?  His eyes got all shifty.  At last he says, British Columbia was beautiful, but the trip was hell.  He explains that he went with this woman to provide moral support while she got a divorce.  And he went because he said she isn’t “wrapped too tightly” and “never could have done this on her own”  and needed help.  During the course of the story, it becomes clear that he paid for her plane ticket and hotel room for a week. 

That’s another of your Hold up, Here moments.  How do you get a man to fly with you over 3,000 miles to a different country, and pay for it, and you are only acquaintances?  And you’re crazy too? I myself am only mildly crazy, and I can’t even get a man to take me to Starbucks!

Of course, you don’t.  At the conclusion of the week in BC, she announced that he was next….that if he did not accede to her wishes, she was going to accuse him of being abusive toward her, just like she had just done with her husband during the divorce.  He handled that by never being alone with her, and by reporting to security at every airport they landed at during the long trip home.  Then he said, Did you read the article in the newspaper this morning?  It was the same woman.  He said, I don’t know all the details, but I suspect she had something to do with driving that train.   

Later in the week, more details emerged. She alleges that the man in her apartment did not hit her in the face with the shotgun, but instead stuck the barrel in her mouth and asked if she was ready to die.  They met in an online support group for cancer victims:  she is a breast cancer survivor, and his ex-wife recently died of cancer.  He was clearly depressed and maybe suicidal, as several postings on his Facebook account implied.  She was just trying to do him a favor.  According to him, the whole incident began when she asked him to help her move a table.  When he refused, she began slapping him repeatedly.  Not that there is any excuse for what he did, but it’s probably not a good idea to provoke unstable people.

So now we know why “Brian” never asked me out for a drink.  He was “busy”.  If he ever does, I will have to decline, on the grounds of not being crazy enough for him.  I think he should take up hang-gliding or bungee-jumping, or some other less dangerous sport.