Talking to the Kids About Porn

10.6.13

Growing up in the 70’s meant that more than a few parents left Playboy out in their living rooms. Reading material I suppose. My parents didn’t. We didn’t really talk about porn much but at a certain point there was a step-family connection and our refusal to talk about it actually became the talk. That’s an elephant from a very old and very wealthy ex-living room.

Porn became a little more mainstream when it transitioned from movie houses to VHS and then completely exploded (bad choice of words but I’m too lazy to go to thesaurus.com) with the internet. With free porn online it’s not a matter of if the kids will see porn, it’s a matter of when.

Last night Mr. G and I had the porn talk with each other and this week it’ll be a divide and conquer with the kids. I get Jane, he gets Alexander. We’re probably really late to have this first talk (all talks worth having need to be repeated for a dozen or more years) but at some point I’ll have to steel my nerves and talk to Jane about porn.

I need to ask Jane if she’s seen porn. Then I need to deal with her reaction to it. I can practice the scenarios in my mind a million times but this is going to be one of those talks where I just wing it. Mr. G and I have decided that there are important points that Jane needs to hear (I was shocked and thrilled that so many of these came from him):

  • Porn is as relevant to real sex as Marvel Comics are to real life
  • You’ll probably find yourself with at least one boy who only knows about sex from porn. If things seem weird and strange they are. Trust your instincts
  • It’s okay to not shave. This goes for armpits, legs and pubic regions
  • Sex isn’t typically an aggressively athletic endeavor
  • Use condoms
  • Seeing porn doesn’t make you bad

I’m sure there’s more to talk about, I have no idea what it will be because every time I try to plan one of these talks I find that my kids surprise me with both their knowledge and lack of it.

We’ve talked to them about sex, drugs, driving, trusting their instincts, protecting each other and being a trustworthy friend. We’ve talked to them about how to get out of uncomfortable situations and the myriad of things that could go very wrong for which they will never be punished so long as they never get in a car with someone who worries them (parents of friends included). We’ve empowered these kids every way we know how but we forgot about porn because when we were teens porn wasn’t in our faces. We didn’t have a free porn culture.

So this week we’ll be talking about porn. Poor Jane, I’m going to trap her in the car and have a good long talk.

 

Which Came First: the Anxiety Disorder or the Blog?

06.26.13

mental illness

Bloggers are weird. Well, weird bloggers are good bloggers I suspect. Sometimes I like to tell myself that people read this site  because I’m just like everyone else. Only I know I’m not just like everyone else because three hours ago I was sitting on a Southwest Airlines flight saving two seats and a guy with those bubbly gross Invisalign teeth whispered, “Fuck You” to me because I wouldn’t give up the good seats so I just smiled and tapped my teeth. I can sniff out vanity and attack it with the speed of a rattlesnake striking an exposed ankle.

I’d like to think I’m just like everyone else but I’m not sure the world could handle 7 billion Invisialign mocking seat savers. My flaws make me readable but not necessarily likable. I’m not trying to fix them (my flaws). Another flaw I have is an inability to make changes until I’m good and ready.

The weirdness of bloggers is clearly what makes them irresistible, readable, interesting and engaging. Readers think they want to know about someone who is living a life like their own, but they don’t. They want to read about what life could be, they want something to aspire to and if pinterest is proof of anything it’s proof that we all want to indulge fantasies of our most beautiful lives while we browse the net. We enjoy looking inside upper middle class homes on the days that the help has been there. If readers aren’t in the mood to reach for the stars it’s always fun to watch someone take the journey of a lifetime. Perhaps a single mother or an adoptive one. Perhaps the mother of a child with a disability or someone fighting the system.

We enjoy watching strong women wage war. Blogs are fun when readers know there will be a victor and so often women (especially mothers) just know that things will work out even if she has to beat a dying horse for years on end. Readers enjoy watching bloggers conquer illnesses both physical and mental. Blogs get popular when there’s a villain. Cancer, depression and autoimmune diseases make great villains. They’re indisputably bad and readers are able to celebrate victories with some regularity.

I’ve made my living online for the past 14 years. I’ve spent fourteen years with my office consisting of a corner of the house, a computer, a mass of cell phones and for five of those years an awful lot of inventory (including some irresistible couture). In those fourteen years I learned how to not let my work take over my life, I learned how to do business with friends and stay friendly, I learned how to walk away from business in the interest of maintaining friendships and I learned how to walk away from my work at the end of a work day (which should not be confused for the end of the day). I have learned to be outside more. I learned that what I do is not who I am even when the work is deeply personal, even when for all intents and purposes my job has been to share a journal with the world.

I’ve learned none of these lessons with grace or humility. That would be too easy. Every lesson I’ve learned has come with some level of failure, pain and personal expense. I learned how to walk away from my office when my house felt like a prison. I learned that the right number of work hours for my family was less than what I’d been working. I learned to delegate. I learned to hire people and I learned to tell my own stories and no one else’s if I wanted to have friends.

I learned that I absolutely needed to stop talking about myself because I’m not that interesting. I learned to ask questions of others and I learned that I’m not particularly special unless I’m giving. I learned that spending all of our days and nights thinking of how to write about ourselves and our experiences make us mentally unstable.

These lessons came like vaccines. I got a little shot of poison and it stung. Sometimes the sting was enough to make me to make me cry and more often that not it was in public so a small dose of shame came with it. I’m not a quick study and, like most vaccines, there were frequent small shots that came at me rapid fire until I had learned the necessary lesson.

A few years ago I started feeling lonely and a bit depressed. When I’d socialize I was anxious and having trouble connecting with the people around me. I felt like I had nothing to discuss and that everything worth talking about lived on my website. I was blogging every day (as I should be now) and actively participating in social media. I was doing my job and I’d like to think I was pretty good at it. I was very good at talking about myself. I was good at attacking complicated subjects and writing sentences that began with I or me (and yes, I do see the irony in this sentence and even in this post).

My job didn’t make me very good at my life so I had to make an effort to get out and and participate in my life a little bit more. I’m not sure that this is unique to bloggers or if perhaps it’s something that happens to more traditional writers and artists as well. I theorize that too much introspection, too much navel gazing is unhealthy and unproductive. The web may reward bloggers who become shut ins with either real or imagined anxiety disorders, depression, agorophobia, weight gain or other problems. Communities build and there are discussions about treatments and bravery and overcoming fear/anxiety/feelings. The world at large does not reward these neuroses. The world gets small and a small world is a very sad world. The world also notes that these disorders are often the luxury of pampered women who don’t have to leave the house to dig ditches to support their families. The world notices that hotel maids, dishwashers at roadside diners and seamstresses are all but free of these social fears.

I would never be so cruel as to suggest that a blogger could find a perfect balance. I don’t believe that a perfect balance exists for anyone, in any career. I do see an alarming trend in parenting and lifestyle bloggers. I see shut ins feeling sad and anxious and I know this sounds pollyanna of me but in most cases we’ve brought it on ourselves and it’s nothing a little sunshine won’t fix.

 Photo Credit Jennifer Mathis via creative commons. 

A Letter to McDonalds: My Mother’s Day Wish #MomsNotLovinIt

05.8.13

Dear McDonalds,

This Mother’s Day I have just one request. Leave my kids alone. I’ve honored your right to exist and I’d like to ask you kindly to honor their right to a McFood free childhood. I know, you’re going to say, “If you don’t like McDonalds just don’t patronize us.” And I don’t, and that’s a good solution but a better one would be where you stop marketing directly to children in insidious ways.

Your school can get a free visit from Ronald McDonald so that he can teach the kids about giving to charity. Although this sounds noble read the fine print:

This show is sponsored as an All-School Assembly. If all students do not participate in the presentation a show fee may be charged to your school.

If a savvy parent doesn’t want their child to be McEducated the school will be charged. Why would McDonalds want to reach pre-school aged kids? Further, McDonalds has pledged to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles. I’m not seeing proof of that pledge when McDonalds uses a 17 year old Olympian and a couple of little kids to promote a breakfast sandwich and don’t even get me started on apples in plastic bags with a side of HFCS caramel.

Gabby Douglas McDonalds

I wonder if McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson would let his kids be part of this promotion?

The FDA/USDA/CDC/FTC already condemn the practice of marketing foods laden with sodium, fat, sugar and unidentifiable ingredients to our kids. Today, as a Mother’s Day gift to me I’m asking McDonalds to back off.

Readers, you can give me the gift of your signature. Join the movement and let McDonalds know that McWorld, their advergaming for kids is McWrong. Sign up with MomsNotLovinIt.org and share the message far and wide.

If Mother’s Day is a day for us, let’s talk about our passions. My passion is children’s health. Join me in sharing the #MomsNotLovinIt hashtag all over the web and hopefully McDonalds will get the McMessage. Their own shareholder’s meeting has children’s health and obesity as it relates to fast food on the agenda (see page 50).

#MomsNotLovinIt Don Thompson

This is the Obesity Message We All Need to Hear

01.24.13

obesity

No, you are not healthy at every size. Yes, fat acceptance is dangerous.

Daniel Callahan writes about the obese in The Hastings Center Report. When reading Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic you’ll find:

 Only a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure is likely to awaken them to the reality of their condition. They have been lulled into oblivious-ness about their problem because they look no different from many others around them. They need to be leaned upon, nudged, and—when politically feasible—helped by regulations to understand that they are potentially in trouble. They should not want to be that way, nor should others.

Before folks get all screechy with me, nowhere does it say that the obese person is a bad person. It simply points out that as everyone is getting fatter people aren’t noticing it because if you look left or right you’re surrounded by people who have gotten fat with you. Sort of like putting a frog in water and slowly turning the heat up.

About Stigmatization he writes:

Misled by the public health community’s acceptance—and even enthusiastic embrace—of supply and demand measures against and outright stigmatization of smoking, I naively assumed that community would do the same against obesity. I had not realized that smoking was the exception—that the public health community generally opposes anything that looks like blaming the victim. This fact was surely evident in the struggle against HIV, as well as in other campaigns over the decades against the stigmatization of people with many other diseases. It has not been hard to fnd examples of stigmatization turning into outright discrimination, even (notoriously) in health care.

Why is obesity said to be different from smoking? Three reasons are common: it is wrong to stigmatize people because of their health conditions; wrong to think it will work well, or at all, with obesity; and counterproductive with the obese because of evidence that it worsens rather than improves their condition. Ethically speaking, the social pressures on smokers focused on their behavior, not on them as persons. Stigmatizing the obese, by contrast, goes after their character and selfhood, it is said, not just their behavior. Stigmatization in their case also leads demonstrably to outright discrimination, in health care, education, and the job market more generally. The obese are said to be lazy, self-indulgent, lacking in discipline, awkward, unattractive, weak-willed and sloppy, insecure and shapeless, to mention only a few of the negative judgments among doctors and nurses.

Clearly there’s a difference between stigmatization (which is subconsciously happening whether you choose to believe it is or not) and having the very real, very frank discussion that obesity is an unhealthy condition and that there’s quality of life to be gained by being a healthy size. Callahan wraps up with:

What I am suggesting—empow-ering the victims, not blaming them, and that individual responsibility is necessary—has its risks. But if the individual and public health impact of being overweight and obese is dangerous, then it is hard to imagine any kind of strong and effective efforts that will not meet resistance. The failure of efforts to date to make much difference suggest that a change of strategy is necessary.

Things you’ll find when you read the full text:

  •  Most of the 67 percent who are overweight or obese will remain so for the rest of their lives, guaranteeing serious health problems as they get older.
  •  Meanwhile, the food industry fights back, debunking scientifc evidence, minimizing the harm, and spending considerable money lobbying legislators.
  • Whether or not they [the public] recognize their own role in it, they need to understand that obesity is a national health problem, one that causes lethal diseases, shortens lives, and contributes substantially to rising health care costs
  • It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry when the most important studies of obesity count a 5 to 10 percent weight loss a “success,” adding that even that much loss has a health benefit, not to be dismissed.

This is not a condemnation of you if you have weight to lose. I absolutely condemn the folks who keep shusshing me when I say that it’s not healthy to be fat. You cannot be obese and have the same quality of life as a typical sized person. It’s a simple impossibility. It’s okay to tell your kids that it’s better for your body to be normal sized than to be fat. It won’t give them an eating disorder… of course overeating IS an eating disorder that Americans love to pass on to their children.

Please. Read this study and rethink the wisdom of fat acceptance.

 

UPDATE: This is a great article too: Gap widens between actual weight and people’s imagined weight

 

 

Previlean: I Learn Slowly

08.20.12

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been on the PreviLEAN plan. First I took the blood test, then I eliminated foods from my diet and then I (predictably) felt great.

And then I did something else predictable. I ate everything in sight. I ate pasta with wheat flour, cake (more dairy, flour and sugar) and washed it all down with fruity drinks that I have no business drinking.

In addition to having almost instantaneous heartburn I also spent the next 24 hours feeling stiff and store. It’s like a full body hangover without the fun night at the club. This is unremarkable right? Of course I’m avoiding specific foods for just about a month and I have an amazing dinner that I believe will be worth it so I go wild and feel like crap. Happens to everyone.

Well, I’m not a quick study, last night I found myself sitting in front of a linzer torte, a bucket of sea salt caramels, flourless chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Having apparently learned absolutely nothing I ate bits of all of them and today my body feels like I’m 90. I creaked my way out of bed and stood in a hot shower surprised that I’d do this to myself again.

I knew that avoiding my “trigger foods” was helping me not have indigestion but I wasn’t ready to believe that it was helping with my joints. I’m pretty sure that I won’t be running head first in a brick wall for the third time in order to learn my lesson…. I hope.