Monthly Archives: February 2010

Disney’s a Drag

Last month I took one of my children to see “The Princess and the Frog,” the latest offering from Disney (coming soon to a Happy Meal near you). And no, I can’t tell you which child I took—he made me swear that I would never reveal the fact that not only did he voluntarily watch one of the princess movies, but that he actually liked it. (Oops. Sorry, Clyde.)

Really, though, an appreciation for the Disney princess movies is nothing to be ashamed of, especially in recent years when they have gone out of their way to portray the “princesses” as strong, independent women. (Think about Mulan, Pocahontas, and Belle.) So no, I don’t have a problem with Clyde enjoying the princess movies—or even with him using the princesses as role models. I might have a problem, though, if he starts modeling his behavior not on the princesses, but on the villains.

And not because Disney villains are so, well, villainous. No, the reason I don’t want Clyde using Disney villains as role models is because, frankly, they have got to be the world’s biggest collection of drag queens I have ever seen.

Think about it: in the (supposedly) female department there’s Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty,” the Wicked Queen from “Snow White”(exactly what country is she supposed to be queen of, anyway—Transgenderia?), the Wicked Step-Mother from “Cinderella,” the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland,” Ursula the Sea Witch from “The Little Mermaid,” and Cruella De Vil from “101 Dalmations.” On the male side there’s Captain Hook from “Peter Pan” (basically a drag queen in his “everyday” clothes), Scar from “The Lion King” (Jeremy Irons plays him as the “Queen of the Beasts”), Jafar from “Aladdin” and now Dr. Facilier from “The Princess and the Frog,”—the last two maybe the least successful of the drag queen crowd, but drag queens nonetheless. (And no, I haven’t forgotten about Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast.” True, he is about as far from a drag queen as you can get. Compensating, perhaps?)

Look, it’s not that I have a problem with drag queens in general, it’s just that the combination of drag queen and villain is a bit much: I’m not sure what message is Disney is trying to send with this (other than “Beware of Blue Eyeshadow”), but if they’re trying to warn kids away from that kind of lifestyle (and by that I mean a life of evil, not a life of accessorizing), I think they’re going about it the wrong way. Because, to the last man—er, woman, I mean, um, well, character—the drag queen villains are always the most interesting characters in the films. Who would you rather watch the Oscars with: Simba or Scar? (Simba: “I think Nicole Kidman looks rather elegant tonight.” Scar: “Darling, I’ve left more meat than that for the hyenas.”) Or even better: who would you rather be stuck in an elevator with: Snow White, or the Evil Queen? (Before you answer that, remember how annoying Snow White’s voice is, and how at least the Evil Queen carries snacks with her. True, they’re poisoned apples, but hey: a snack is a snack. And don’t forget: with Snow White you’d have to deal with the whole “alternative lifestyle” thing—you’d probably get out of the elevator only to be confronted by her reality show film crew. No thanks.)

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the whole “drag queen villain as role model” thing isn’t such a bad idea. At least that way I can be sure that Clyde will never end up on the “Jerry Springer Show,” explaining to a hostile studio audience why he’s okay playing the submissive role to seven creepy old men.

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I’ve been thinking about the upcoming FUSD override election a lot lately, and not because the ballot just appeared in my mailbox. And also not because, even after having spent my entire life in Arizona, I still find it hard to believe that a state that has consistently ranked at or near the bottom in spending per student is going to once again slash the education budget. No, the reason I have been thinking about the override so much lately is because of all the moronic anti-override arguments I keep reading in the paper and online. I mean, some of them are so bad I wonder if the people making them have maybe been sent back in time from some dystopian future where the override didn’t pass in order to deliver a warning. (Cue somber voiceover . . . “In the future, educational opportunities in Flagstaff will be so limited that most children won’t even be able to make a rational argument . . .dum dum DUM!) No, wait a minute: skip the dum dum DUM: without the override it’s unlikely that there will be much music in Flagstaff’s future schools. Or much art. Or athletics. Or librarians. Or nurses.

Seriously though: some of the arguments these people are making are so off base they make my head hurt. Arguments like: “Maybe they could save money by replacing some of the positions with parent volunteers—you know, like the librarian.” (Because all librarians do is re-shelve books, right? That M.S. in Library Science? Nothing but two years of learning the Dewey Decimal System.)

Or how about “But what about the override money we gave you in back in 2006? And 2003?” (Spent it. And, as long as the state legislature keeps underfunding schools, we’re going to need to keep on spending it, every year.)

Then there’s “Schools need to learn to tighten their belts just like the rest of us—when I went to school we didn’t have fancy computer labs and special education classes.” I hate to be the one to tell you this, but special education classes aren’t a luxury—they’re mandated. And unlike charter schools, who can pick which students they accept, public schools MUST accept—and educate—any student within their boundaries. That’s the “public” part of “public education.” And as for the computer labs? Today’s students face an entirely different world than the students of a generation ago, and if they have any hope of succeeding in today’s workplace they need to have at least a modicum of technological training. Yes, I know that in your day they were “always hiring down at the buggy whip factory,” but times have changed—even many restaurants now require their food servers to be able to use a computer to place their orders with the kitchen.

Worst of all, though, are the arguments that are just plain factually wrong. Arguments like: “But we just can’t keep raising taxes every year.” That’s true—we can’t. And we don’t: in sixteen of the last twenty-two years the state actually voted to lower taxes, to the point where we paid 24% less in property tax in 2008 than we did in 2006. Or, “I’m all for education, but the district wastes too much money on administrative costs.” (FUSD now actually spends less than the state average on administrative costs, something that is remarkable considering both the size of the district and the fact that until recently positions like nurses and librarians were mistakenly counted as administrators.)

But finally, there’s my all time favorite: “We can’t solve everything by throwing more money at it.” How do you know we can’t? So far, we’ve never tried, and, at an average cost of six dollars per household per month, we’re not exactly going to be trying now. But that is something to think about—in the future.

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There are international symbols for just about everything. There is one for “fragile,” one for “handicapped,” one for “danger ahead” and even one for “loose rocks on cliff face.” (I love that symbol of the guy falling off of a cliff. Even though the person-shaped symbol has no facial features whatsoever, it still manages to convey an attitude of “Oh, @#$!” ) One symbol, however, that I have yet to find in all of my years (well, okay—more like all of my minutes) of searching is the international symbol for motherhood. (Although, thanks to a recent campaign by “Mothering” magazine, we’ve finally gotten an international symbol for “Breastfeeding Mothers Welcome Here.” Why anyone would need a symbol for that, though, is beyond me: breastfeeding is such a completely normal activity that you would think that the symbol for “Breastfeeding Not Welcome Here” would have come first.)

Anyway, the new breastfeeding symbol notwithstanding, my search for the international symbol for motherhood remained fruitless. (No, the little martini glass symbol doesn’t count—that’s the international symbol for a bar.) And then, just last week, at approximately seven o’clock in the evening, I finally found it. THE symbol. The one I’ve been looking for. Are you ready? Okay, here goes. It turns out that the international symbol for motherhood is . . . a pizza crust. Or maybe a partially eaten chicken drumstick. Or perhaps the crust from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or a few pieces of mac’n’cheese stuck to the side of a bowl, although that one might be a bit difficult to convey in symbols.

The thing is, the actual food scrap itself doesn’t matter so much, as long as it manages to convey something that is both fattening and unsatisfying. That’s because what really matters is what the food scrap represents: sacrifice.

When I was in labor with my second child, to get things to progress my midwife suggested that I drink a cup of castor oil. I did, and it worked, but I never got over the fact that I had just consumed over two-hundred grams of fat without even slightly enjoying it. Little did I know it, but that was just the beginning.

Here’s the main problem: I’m cheap. Way cheap. Super cheap. Much too cheap to actually throw out perfectly good food. (Or even imperfectly good food, for that matter. “Just cut the bad part off” could be my motto.) And so, what happens is, because of my cheapness, I end up finishing my kids’ meals instead of eating my own.

This is okay when it comes to my daughter, Clementine. Her palate has finally advanced to the point that cleaning up after her usually amounts to finishing her hummus, or salad, or maybe, at the worst, her yogurt. The boy, on the other hand, is a whole other story.

Being eight, and, as I believe I mentioned before, being a boy, my son Clyde is pretty much entirely made up of junk food. In fact, you could probably argue that he is nothing but Whopper Jr.s and Cold Stone waffle cones held together by pants and a t-shirt. Which means that his food scraps are likely to be things like hamburgers, pizza, chili, and fries. Not the best bits, mind you—just the leavings. When we go out for pizza, Clyde eats four slices, and I eat four crusts. When we go out for burgers, he gets four double cheeseburgers, and I get the pickles, and maybe a bun.

To make matters worse, being a boy (and eight), the more he eats, the taller he gets. While I only get wider. Sigh. Maybe the international symbol for motherhood should be a great big butt. Falling off of a diet. As with the cliff face one, the @#$! would just be implied.

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Flat Mom

Scrolling through the channels recently, I noticed that the latest thing in the reality show craze is filth: people can’t seem to get enough of shows about other peoples’ filthy houses. There’s How Clean Is Your House (with the two annoying British women), Clean House (with the annoying American woman), Clean Sweep (having never watched it, I’m not sure exactly how they maintain their annoyance dynamic), and then, of course, there’s the newest entry, Hoarders. Hoarders caught my eye a few weeks back because it featured a woman in Georgia whose house, when it was finally excavated of all its trash, revealed an ancient dead cat mashed flat by the sheer weight of all the junk on top of it. (It was never established whether or not the cat died first, and was then squished, or whether it was the squishing that killed it. I’m guessing that the show’s budget doesn’t extend into pet post mortems.)

Anyway, the flat cat episode started me thinking about my own mortality. Specifically, it started me thinking about how much I do not want to be featured mummified and flattened on the preview of some new reality show. And, also, about how it sometimes seems as if there is no way I will be able to prevent it. That’s because I live with a group of people whose condition, while perhaps not as dangerous as that of the hoarders, is nevertheless just as certifiable.

I live with pilers.

Pilers are people whose answer to everything is to pile it. Not sure what to do with the mail? Just put it in a pile, and then place it on top of that pile of dirty dishes from breakfast, which, in turn, are resting on that pile of the morning papers, which is on top of the pile of the schoolwork that came out of the kids’ backpacks last night. Which is on top of the dead cat.

Okay—there’s no dead cat. Yet. But there could be, if they could just find a way to fold one neatly. That’s the thing about pilers—they think they’re being tidy. They mistakingly think that just because they line up the corners on their piles they are any less filthy than that woman in Georgia.

They say that people hoard for all sorts of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because they are afraid that if they throw anything out the day will come when they will one day want it again. Pilers, on the other hand (at least the ones in my house) say that they pile because they are afraid that if they throw anything out the day will come when I will one day want it again. “Every time I throw something away you yell at me about it the next week,” is the complaint I hear. And it’s true—I do get frustrated when things like permission slips and tax bills wind up in the trash. How that relates to the need to keep expired coupons for tanning salons and notifications about cheerleading tryouts, I have yet to figure out.

Sometimes I think that it’s all just a ruse, and that the final, sinister purpose of it all is to create a setting wherein they can hide my body. Of course, that might be ascribing more organization to them than they deserve. As well as being incredibly paranoid. But what other logical explanation could there be? Why else would two ostensibly sane people (and Clementine) stack clean laundry on top of freshly buttered toast?

As far as I’m concerned, it has to be a trap, and all I know is that if one day I walk into the kitchen and see a humongous pile of paper leaning precariously over the top of a Belgian candy bar and a nude picture of Alan Rickman, I’m not going in after it.

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