...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Friday, June 29, 2007

Two recent conversations about polar bears

Conversation between a community college writing instructor and a student at the same college, overheard while waiting for the 12 at 3rd and Stark a few days ago. The student was enrolled in Composition 1; the instructor taught Composition 2 and was offering advice about the courses:

Teacher: "So, what paper are you working on now?"
Student: "Argumentative. We've already done Cause and Effect and (something else)."
Teacher: "Comp 2 is where it really gets tough, because you get into the research papers."
Student: "Well, I find that any paper incorporates research. Like, my Cause and Effect, I did on global warming, so I did a ton of research for that one. I probably researched for fifteen hours."
Teacher: "Oh...global warming...One of my students is doing her research paper on how they say that polar bears will be extinct in fifteen years...you know, that whole thing."
Student: "Pish posh. Polar bears like water, not ice!"

Conversation between me and E, a four-year-old boy, outside on our playground one afternoon a couple weeks ago:

E: "Mumble...mumble...predator."
Me: "What?"
E: "I said, the sperm whale is the largest predator that ever existed. But what's the largest predator right now?"
Me, confused: "Oh....hmmm...well. I know that the polar bear is very big."
E, witheringly: "That's not even the largest bear. The Kodiak Grizzly is way bigger than a polar bear."
Me: "Well, I guess you're right."
E: "I think the largest predator is the orca whale."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Must delay impending adulthood

Well, crap. One of my Religious Studies/Pamplin friends from college goes and gets herself married! Congratulations, Frances!

It makes me feel nervous and weird when friends who are my age, or a year or two younger, do such adult things: get married, settle down, have kids--since I feel so unready for those things, I always want to assume that they belong to the Realm of the Grown-Ups, those serious people at least five or six years older than me. I'm going to rest in the fact that, today during afternoon snack time, the preschoolers debated my age and decided that I couldn't be much older than six.

Favorite quote from Frances' most recent blog entry: "Anyway, it's time to get back to housewifely duties like cleaning and organizing and jobhunting. I wouldn't mind being a housewife if there were kids around, or tupperware parties, or vibrator parties, or if the house was really dirty, but that is just not the case."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The sweetest thing he could have said

I arrived at work just as Ben, my co-teacher, was preparing to take seven or so friends, including Whiplash, out to the playground to run off some energy. He left me in the classroom with C (boy, 4); V (girl, 4); S (girl, almost 3); J (boy, 4), and twin brothers N and H (4). J asked me to read The Magic School Bus Goes Batty, so we sat down on the carpet and I began to read, J nestled on my lap, V and S on my right, N and H on my left. C was content playing by himself at the art table, where Ben had spread out some fake snow.

" ' "I guess I was wrong," Ralphie said,' " I read, near the end of the story. " ' "Ms. Frizzle isn't a vampire, she's just a really great teacher who sometimes gets too wrapped up in things." ' "

"But, um, um, Teacher Jessica?" N asked. "Why Ms. Frizzle a really great teacher who sometimes gets too wrapped up in things?" Several of the friends frequently repeat sentences almost verbatim, just tacking on the word "why" at the beginning.

"Well, she's a really great teacher because she always thinks of interesting field trips and activities to learn about different things," I responded.

"Oh," N said, thinking about it.

J piped up from my lap. "You're better, though," he said.

A better teacher than Ms. Frizzle?! That's the highest praise a preschooler can give! I was quite moved. Now if only I could turn the kids into raindrops to learn about the water cycle...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

So cute, and yet so undesireable

A mouse.

In our house!!!!!

I was sitting on my bed, writing an email to Daniel, when I saw a furry brown mass dart into my room through the open door. I screamed. It darted out and down the hallway. I met my roommates Amy and Alaina in the laundry room (well, the laundry nook, more like it) and we all screamed for a minute. Then we set up the rest of our mousetraps.

Tomorrow I will be deep-cleaning my room.

Inquiring minds want to know

Last night around 9:30pm I was walking towards Ground Kontrol in Old Town, where my boyfriend's band was playing. As I crossed from Burnside to Couch, a man standing on the corner diagonal across the street attracted my attention. He spoke in a slow, heavily-lidded, stoned-sounding drawl, with audible ellipses between each word: "Hey...what do you think of...hardcore...radical....casual...sex?"

"Not into it," I responded cooly and continued walking.

"Yeah...not many people are..." he replied, in the exact same tone of voice, without missing a beat. "But when it works out...it's pretty cool."

I told Daniel about the encounter when I saw him later that night and we laughed about it. The funny thing was that the man's delivery was so strange and droll that his question came across as less of a proposition, and more a straightforward request for information: am I into hardcore...radical...casual...sex? "Maybe he was trying to proposition you, but because he was stoned it came across as just a regular question," Daniel suggested.

The distinction got me thinking about the different kinds of public comments men make about the bodies and sexualities of women. Like all women living in a misogynist society that objectifies women and commodifies women's bodies, I've experienced a range of different comments while walking around downtown Portland: the straight proposition ("I'd fuck you so hard"); the request for prurient information (above, but also the annoying and unsettling "So, are you married or what?" asked of me most recently by a middle-aged man on the bus after a few minutes of polite small talk); the sexual compliment paid without a proposition attached (a few weeks ago an African-American man asked if he could pay me a compliment, then told me, in slightly different language, that my ass compared favorably to that of most Caucuasion women). And, like all women living in misogynist societies, I've also been publically reprimanded by male strangers for failing to appear attractive and/or fuckable according to their exacting standards--part and parcel of living in a society that considers the bodies of women to be public property, and the sexual and personal habits of women open to public interrogation and judgment.

That said, I can't get too upset about the man's question: ""Hey...what do you think of...hardcore...radical....casual...sex?" Don't get me wrong: the fact that he would ask is absolutely antifeminist, and part of the overarching tradition of men as a class (note: not all men!) naming, commenting on, and judging the bodies and lives of women as a class. It's impossible to proposition a female stranger on the street without objectifying her, and I believe that objectification to be rooted in misogyny. At the same time, mostly I just find the exchange funny, and an amusing anecdote. And you know, maybe it's indicative of my innocence, or a failure of my imagination, but I don't really get the inclusion of "radical" in his question: the "casual" and the "hardcore" I understand, but what exactly is "radical" sex? (When I think of the words "radical" and "sex" together, the first name that comes to mind is Andrea Dworkin--and somehow, I don't think that man meant to reference her work.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You know you're a preschool teacher when...

...you start talking to the classroom guinea pigs in the same hyper-empathetic voice you use with the children (or "friends," as we call them at the school): "Okay, friend, I'm going to gently and carefully lift your body out of the cage. Oh...I hear you squealing. I really hear you saying that."

Words accompanied by empathetic nodding of head, furrowing of eyebrows, and pursing of lips. (Sometimes I have a headache at the end of the day from maintaining my brow in a constant empathetic furrow.)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Amanda at Pandagon:

"Of course, the other part of this is redefining what a child is, taking women’s participation in the creation of one out of the picture and relegating pregnant women to the role of mere incubators for children that men make. To call something a “child” from the moment a man shoots his load and not after a woman has grown the child for 9 months in her body is part of the project of using pregnancy as a tool to dehumanize women and subjugate us to men. Equating a 15-week-old fetus with an actual baby is about erasing a woman’s effort and time put into making a baby, and handing over the credit to the strenously ejaculated offerings of the father. I’ve no doubt that the renewed interest in the post-Roe era of erasing the fact that pregnancy is a process is a big part of the backlash against feminism. Patriarchal traditions like calling children born out of wedlock “bastards” and the naming of children after their father and the assumption that fathers have automatic custody are all retreating to various degrees, and reactionaries are lashing out by trying to make men so important in baby-making that pregnancy itself is seen less as a process of making a baby and more as some sort of danger zone for a man’s property. Which of course is why sonogram pictures of developing embryos have such an emotional pull on anti-choicers—look, with the magic of technology you can pretend that the damn obstacle of the pregnant woman isn’t even there. If only doctors could find a way to erase women from the picture completely."

Read the whole post.