Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Ever-Changing Narrative (Sex and Violence Edition)

Today, I cruised by the Slacktivist blog to check up on a thread/topic I'd viewed last night - one of Mr. Clark's linkspams to interesting stories found online (the "Smart People Saying Smart Things" series). I rarely, if ever click on all the links in those, but sometimes I click through a few and find interesting stuff.  Want to cringe and horrible puns? Check the "Christian T-Shirt Fails."   (I think it's a good measure of how changed or "backslidden" I've become when I look at stuff like that and remember the church I went too as a teen and how such things were popular... except, somehow, I remember the quality of the shirts and messages as being so much *better* than today.  I had a "Love All, Worship One" shirt once with a stylish fish-symbol done in a sponge-paint style... cheesy? Sure, but not nearly as bad as a Jesus-Staples Easy Button).  Face. Palm.

I once had a job service try to get me a job as a graphic designer at one of those places. After browsing the online shirt message selection, I had a "Run away!" reaction and emailed my job coach with what essentially amounted to a Big Nooooo! (That place's offerings were even worse than bad puns.  A shirt that read "God loves homosexuals" on the front - sweet - until you see the back "He loves people looking for love in all the wrong places."  - I wanted to smack people upside the head with a rolled up newspaper for sheer rudeness if nothing else)! 

Speaking of that... One of the other links on the linkspam was to a story on an LGBT site about an overlooked old church Saint... A Saint who was a bearded lady.  (According to the story, she didn't want to be married off to a pagan king, so she prayed about it and God gave her a beard to make her ugly so she wouldn't have to marry. Then her dad murdered her over it).  The site speculated that perhaps (if she existed) she was a lesbian who was blessed with the beard or an intersex individual and has become a Saint that some in the LGBT community latch onto as patron.  (She's officially a patron of difficult marriages, I think... I just took a glance at the article).  Anyway, today, on the comments to the linkspam, I saw someone complaining about how this person "automatically" is branded "lesbian" rather than "perhaps heterosexual but just didn't want to marry" or "perhaps asexual." 

The commentator was an asexual who is tired of being ignored. 

I can relate.  I mean, though I'm in a technically heterosexual relationship, sex just isn't a part of it - and I'm happy with it. I mean, what do you call a 33-year-old-virgin without any overwhelming desire to "correct" that particular life-state even though I've had no problems "landing" a partner?  I'm pretty sure I'm asexual, or something close to it.  - Now, it only seems to weird people out when I share it (I'm weirding you out right now, aren't I)? And I run the risk of getting accusations of everything from "prude who's going to tell me I'm evil and going to Hell for having sex" to "stupid, pitiable child who just doesn't KNOW life yet because the big "O" is magical" to "What the Hell is WRONG with you?"  (To which I reply - yes. I do have something "wrong" with me. Want me to go into detail about a health condition)?  By the way, if you want to have sex, no skin off my bum - but if you don't know your partner(s) well, use protection so you don't get sick, okay? I care about you.  

I was struck with the thought reading the commentator of "Yeah, it's kind of annoying to have the possibility of my existence ignored again, but... so what?"  I think the LGBT community is in need of Saints and heroes (mythic as well as the confirmed-real) because historically, not a lot of those have been "allowed" to them by greater society.  As an "asexual" I don't feel particularly persecuted - on the grounds of "What's the point of a unicorn hunt?"   I'm content to be a "unicorn" if it helps other people, people who really need the solace.

So, I guess I'm saying, my attitude right now is if, someway, somehow, I become a Saint or a hero of some sort and people in the future want to look to my lack of obvious sexuality as a sign that I can be a hero to their own - go right ahead.

I'm thinking about this because I have a short story in mind dealing with the “change in narratives” regarding life and people that I'm dawdling on.  It’s just one of my possibly-meaningless stories to post on the blog that I'll probably never make money or fame from - about a man who is resurrected after ten years of being dead.  Just spontaneously resurrected - I'm not going to try to explain it with science though the scientists in the story's world will.  Despite the obvious "religious" connotations to what happened to him, I don't want it to be a religious story. In fact, the "victim" as it were doesn't remember an afterlife (yet, he does not dismiss the possibility that there is one and he just doesn't remember it).  He gets people angry at him from both sides because he's unwilling to take one - also, some will be angry at his general existence, because face it, some people would be because it seems like whenever something that’s “not supposed to happen” does, sometimes even for “good,” some people get angry because “The world does not work that way!” 

Anyway, the main meat of the story (if I ever get it written) is that the hapless man finds that people’s memories of him have shifted.  His family and friends all make assumptions about him and “what he’d want” and are made to feel very strange when he corrects them, or chooses something different.  – I want the story to be about how we go through our lives essentially seeing other people as fictional characters a lot of the time – we have our own images of them, our own ideas about them, sometimes even the people we are closest to.  In other words, the story-idea is a play on “Don’t speak ill of the dead” and “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”   When the dead cannot speak, we make myths around them – good or bad, depending upon what we thought of the person and whether we personally knew them or if they’re just a historical figure. 

The weirdest thing – when first getting the budding ideas for this story, I was pretty sure I wanted my resurrect-character to die in a public shooting (so I could play with the idea of “the martyrs we make – whether or not they ever wanted to be”).  Then, well, news happened…  Okay, if someone shoots up a grocery store anytime soon, consider me one really freaked out writing-prophetess.  I was thinking gas-station-store, that kind of thing, just because robberies there are common… that evolved into a grocer somehow… And if anyone actually does that, even though I’m not sure I believe in an “eternal Hell” anymore, I hope there’s some kind of a “hell” for them.  I hate to be one of those “hangin’s too good” types, but sometimes, I honestly am when I look at all the shit that goes on in the world.

Speaking of violence – here’s another thing I’ve been wondering at for a while in regards to values dissonance and how history looks upon things… I keep thinking that the very “progressive” people of today might be seen as monsters in the future, not for the things they are progressive about, but for side-things.  I keep thinking, for instance, that one day, maybe vegetarianism will win out as the grand moral dietary choice – as is, I have respect for vegetarians, even though I’m a meat-loving butcher’s daughter and well, when it comes to some of the flesh I eat – a stone-killer.  I went fishing yesterday at a nearby creek. I caught four lovely sunfish (they’re small and bony, but I enjoy eating them) and brought ‘em home, beheaded them, gutted them and fried ‘em up with some bacon and garlic.  I am capable of doing that without thinking too much about the fish (I do try to minimize suffering, but they are pretty primitive-brained, so I’m never going to think of them the same way I do people, or even the mammals I also enjoy eating).   I can’t help but think that even as I grow “progressively” on various issues of politics, society, human rights and even spirituality, that history may just look back on me / those like me as horrid because we ate things with faces and / or looked into the faces of what we ate. 

I’m unrepentant, though.  Fish are delish.  Fish aren’t friends! They’re food!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Cat Curse

This is a bit of creative non-fiction.  It's short and based upon a joke that's been ongoing in my household for years. 

The Cat Curse

Tradition holds that cats are magical creatures.  In ancient days they have been everything from benevolent to wicked and, even today, they appear in films and stories as little tricksters.  Those who have shared their lives with cats can attest to the animals having a special quality about them. 

Not all magic is good magic. 

My love and I live with a cat that’s a bona-fide goddess.  We do not know how aware she is of the extent of her power, but if you don’t believe in curses, this true story is not for you – or maybe it is.  Reading this series of events may make a believer out of you.

My household consists of Bob, Welsper and me.  Welsper is the fiercesome feline.  She can be best described as a quiet little cat, except in the morning when she wants breakfast or when the house is quiet and she thinks she’s alone.  She cries loudly when hungry and loudly when lonely.  She has a strange habit of licking most of the fur off her hindquarters.  Welsper is a neurotic little thing. 

Here is the strange thing:  When one does something to make her very upset, bad things happen. Believe me, bad things happen. 

Bob and I first became aware of the Cat Curse soon after we had moved into a suburban apartment.  I had managed to sell a piece of artwork and the money from that enabled us to pay a rather steep pet-deposit so that we could keep her rather than giving her to a shelter.  It was not a move that took place in happy circumstances, but we were happy not to have to give our kitty up to someone unknown in the end.  Before settling into the new place, Welsper faced off with her arch nemesis – Santa Claus. 

One of the last things we moved out of our old place was the cat – on Christmas Eve.  I held the travel-terrified cat in her carrier on my lap in the car on a cold winter’s night as a fire truck, decked out for one of the local parades and bearing Santa Claus, came past us, blowing all its horns and making the feline even more of a basket-case than she already was.  Clueless, Santa grinned and waved a white-gloved hand at us.  The smell of fear emanated powerfully from the carrier in my arms.   Welsper really was never the same after that…

A few days later, just before the New Year, I was readying myself for morning work.  I had myself a bowl of cereal or oatmeal or something – I forget what, and Bob noticed this while he was getting the cat’s breakfast. 

“You’re eating before the cat,” he said, “You know you’re going to be cursed now.” 

We both laughed at the joke and Bob drove me to work, since he needed my spacious car for the hauling of the last of our junk from the old house to the new or to our storage-locker.  At the time, I worked at a horse farm.  I cleaned stalls, took care of water and fed the animals.  I hadn’t been at the job for long, but it was a kind of work I had done before. It was dirty, low-paid labor that I was nonetheless proud of simply because I knew that the world was full of people too proud to do it.   

The barn boss took me up to the hayloft to show me the difference between different stacks of hay the farm had just got in – not all hay being cut from the same grass, some of it being richer and some if it being more basic feed.  I was the last down the stairs. 

And down the stairs I went.  My boot slipped on a step and I tumbled straight into the concrete floor below.  After my ambulance trip and getting my right arm x-rayed, Bob met me at the hospital and spoke of the feline’s curse from that morning.  Some much-needed laughter followed.  Of course, I fell down the steps because I had the audacity to take my breakfast before the cat was fed so she sent her malice out to ensure me a cracked bone!

As it turns out, I had a bruised kidney, too, and didn’t learn of it until three days later when the pains in my middle became too sharp to ignore.  I went back to the hospital for a few days to get that straightened out.  Could I have had all this trouble just because I ate before the furry little demon?

The Cat Curse became confirmed with many little things after that.  One incident that I remember involved sushi.  I enjoy takeout sushi on occasion.  Typically, when I bring some home, I give the cat a small offering.  I’ll nip off a tiny piece of raw fish with my teeth and give it to Welsper because I like to share and because I find her enthusiastic reaction to it amusing.  If you’ve never given a cat a tiny bit of sushi or sashimi-fish, you should try it… well, unless your vet recommends against it.  We never asked a vet about whether or not Welsper can have the stuff.  All I know is that my cat probably wants to live in Japan.  Maybe that’s what some of her more random meowing as she walks up and down the house is about – she’s demanding an international move to a land where fine fish is plentiful!

One afternoon, Bob and I went to a local Asian supermarket that specializes in Korean foods, but also carries products from all over Asia – Japanese snacks and Chinese food ingredients, tea from Singapore and the like.  They even have a rather nice Mexican food section with things I never thought I’d see after leaving the American Southwest.  For lunch, I’d picked up fresh sushi there, which I ate in the car as we had to get to somewhere else that day and had no time for stopping to eat and share with the cat.   We joked that, since I had not taken my raw fish home to share the obligatory offering with the cat, I had incurred the Cat Curse. 

We laughed it off, but sure enough, the next day we had an issue with our electricity.  Because it was a weekend, the power company did not bother to fix the problem quickly, leaving us for three days in a summer swelter, desperately trying to keep the food in the fridge and freezer chilled down with store-bought ice.  The cat didn’t care.  She had shade.  She didn’t play videogames or use the Internet for entertainment or business.  Her food was pretty much the same every day and came from a can.  I’m sure she enjoyed watching us sweat and suffer.

The latest major incident of the Cat Curse fell upon my birthday.  Two days before, I brought home a spicy tuna roll from a favorite takeout place and completely forgot to invite the cat to lunch with me.  She was asleep in the back room as I enjoyed my fish without giving her the obligatory offering.  The afternoon of my birthday, Bob and I planned to go out to one of the local stores to get fishing licenses so we could go fishing.  It was the one thing I wanted to do on that day, actually. 

Bob let Welsper romp in the backyard until she was naughty and he had to drag her out of an unauthorized hidey-hole.  She scratched him, drawing blood, and was generally full of wrath when she was brought inside.  So, we really should have seen it coming when every store we went to had communication problems with their licensing input-computer systems and the air conditioning in my car quit.  It was the hottest day of the year.  At least I don’t live in Arizona anymore… but Pennsylvania still gets hot, in this case, horrifically so. I was reminded of my former home. 

Eventually, the air started working again and we found out that we could purchase our legal documents for the catching of finned creatures online and print them out at home.  The whole ordeal was still aggravating. 

The Cat Curse. 

As of my writing this, I offended the cat again this week, by failing to let her have a romp outside when she wanted to.  I went fishing that day and tripped in a hole on a creekside trail and hurt my ankle.  

I’m watching the furry little whisker-muffin very carefully. And with suspicion. 

If you have a cat (especially one named after a fictional demon from a comic like ours is), my advice is to treat her well.  Do not eat breakfast before she does and don’t forget, when you have some good fish, to give her an offering.  Trust me; it is better to appease felines than to tempt the dark side of their magic.