Call your friends right now

When the one person you want to tell is the one person you can’t tell

We were going to outlast our enemies together. Source

Our mutual brother in law – Ted – was being his usual jerk self at Stephanie’s funeral.

I thought, “Oh man I need to call Steph and tell her what Ted is doing!”


Steph was the only one who Got It.

Mr T also gets it to a certain extent, but Steph and I were the outsiders with no blood ties, so it was easier for us to roll our eyes at Ted. Mr T is his brother (or his “half brother,” as Mr T’s parents were always so quick to point out), so it’s a bit harder.

She and I shared many a gossipy conversation about how awful Ted is.

He and his family don’t eat leftovers, he told Mr T.

(Steph was an amazing cook and Italian tomato sauce gets better if it sits a few days. Stephanie and I are both big fans of leftovers.)

When their dad, Sly, was in the rehab center, Ted told Mr T that Mr T needed to prepare Sly’s house for his return, including removing all the carpet and making Sly lose 30 pounds and stop drinking.

(Steph and I wanted Mr T to use his amazing weight loss powers on us first.)

Ted screamed at Mr T when Mr T wouldn’t reimburse him $800 cash for the frequent flier miles Ted used to attend his own father’s funeral.

Please note that Mr T did reimburse him what an actual plane ticket would have cost – about $400 – to attend the funeral.

He just didn’t give Ted the $800 he wanted.

Steph agreed that Ted was a greedy jerk.


Steph and I also had our shared history about Mr T’s dad, who, one Thanksgiving, pitched a fit because his grandchildren, whom he had told to serve themselves of the 20-lb turkey, had taken nothing but white meat.

He would never have dared to take only white meat when he was a kid, Sly shouted.

Why didn’t their mother raise them better? he yelled.

It was quite A Thing and ended only when Steph, who didn’t take crap, got her coat and said she was leaving. Mr T and Steph’s husband (Mr T’s other brother) convinced their dad to leave his office, where he had been sulking, and return to the dining room.

At Thanksgiving the next year, Sly said, unprompted and apropos of nothing, that he had never liked the white meat anyhow.

Steph and I turned to each other as our jaws dropped.


Years ago, after Steph, her husband, and their kids had moved closer to Mr T’s parents, Mr T’s parents had asked them over for Christmas Eve.

Steph politely declined, saying that they had their own traditions – the Seven Fishes, something Steph’s Italian family did every year, but that Sly and Doris were welcome to come to their house.

Sly and Doris insisted and said they would honor the tradition.

And they honored it.

Sort of.

Mr T’s parents provided Steph with a crab leg.

Yes.

One.

One crab leg.

Every time I saw crab legs on sale, I would screenshot the ad and text it to her.


Ted told Mr T that our musical tastes were “pedestrian” because we went to a Dire Straits concert.

Steph said “I like Dire Straits. Am I pedestrian, too?”


Ted’s wife had told Mr T it was a good thing that Mr T and I were not “financially strapped” the way they were, giving us the joyous freedom of taking care of Mr T’s parents as they died.

Ted and his wife grabbed tons of stuff from Sly and Doris’ house after they died, asking for furniture and complaining that Mr T wasn’t giving them the Good Jewelry that Doris had promised them.

“WHAT GOOD JEWELRY?” Steph asked. “She had nothing but costume jewelry!”

Mr T finally dumped all of Doris’ jewelry into a box and sent the whole thing to Ted.

And then he sent his mom’s silver to Ted.

Ted was not amused.

Steph was.


For Steph’s funeral, Ted chose to stay at the same hotel where Mr T and I were staying.

He chose.

We did not ask him to stay near us.

We did not ask him to stay in the same hotel.

We did not even recommend the hotel.

Mr T got our room on points and it was a convenient location and that was it.

Ted complained to Mr T that the hotel was awful and said he was going to punch and maybe even murder Mr T for that.

He also told Mr T that he needed to “open your wallet” and stay someplace like the Ritz Carlton.

He said that an open-casket funeral – which this one was – is “morbid.”

And he questioned my amazing, smart, kind, thoughtful niece’s ability to plan a funeral and execute the estate.


OMG! I thought. STEPH WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT A JERK TED IS BEING!


Then Ted suggested that we – Mr T and I, our nieces and nephew, their dad, and Ted and his wife – get together for supper the night before the funeral.

At an expensive restaurant.

Not world class, though! Not world class, like where the ones where Ted lives, but it was good enough, he assured us.

“Surely the trust can pay for the kids,” he said. “I’m sure Sly and Doris wouldn’t mind kicking in from the grave.”

Thing the One

This trust is the money the kids inherited from their grandparents. It’s their money now, not their grandparents’ money. Money that Mr T is using to pay their student loans. To help them with unexpected big expenses. To fund their IRAs.

It’s not go out to fancy restaurants money.

Thing the Two

Mr T and I, in Before Times, would have supper with my dad’s two brothers and their wives. We tried and tried and tried to pick up the bill and my aunts and uncles WERE NOT HAVING IT.

“My brother’s kid paying for my supper? I DON’T THINK SO!” my uncle muttered. (Yes, he muttered in all caps.)

In what world does an uncle invite his nieces and nephews to dinner on the night before they bury their mother and expect them to pay for their own meal?


Steph is going to be so pissed that Ted thinks Niece #1 can’t handle this. Generous Steph, who always fed me when I visited, is going to be so pissed that Ted didn’t offer to host.


Mr T and I agreed that our nieces and nephew might want to spend the night before their mom’s funeral with Steph’s brother and his family and the rest of their mom’s relatives. That having dinner with us might not be top of mind for them.

Mr T’s brother and the kids’ father told Ted the same thing.

Ted said he would make reservations just in case.

FORTUNATELY, Ted told us, he is friends with the front of house manager at the restaurant and could get reservations for nine.

(Ted aside, the last thing I want to do right now is to 1. eat at a restaurant 2. with unmasked possibly infected people 3 when it’s so crowded that reservations are required.)

(Also the last last thing I want to do is spend a lot of money to eat out.)

(And if I were going to risk covid to eat at a restaurant, it would not be so I could eat with Ted. It would be with people I actually like.)

FORTUNATELY, Mr T told him that we wanted to eat the local food, not the French food offered at the fancy restaurant Ted had chosen.

To which Ted replied that he can’t eat the local food because he can’t eat onions and I thought “WTAF? Is this about being together or is it about eating where Ted wants to eat?”

Silly me. Of course it’s about eating where Ted wants to eat.

And then FORTUNATELY Mr T told Ted we are not eating in restaurants anyhow these days and the kids’ dad already said they’re not going to supper, which would be the reason we might make an exception.


And I wanted to text Steph and say “OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS GUY?”

And I couldn’t.

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What it’s like to talk to an older, rural, anti-Trump, pro-gay rights man about abortion

Hint: He’s against it

Cast

THEO

College-educated, practicing Christian (former Catholic) white man who voted for Trump in 2016 but now hates him with a passion and voted for Biden in 2020.

Grew up in a major city but now lives in a rural area. Vaccinated. Divorced for many years, now living with a lovely woman who agrees with me on abortion. Upper middle class economically, I would say. Parents were blue collar, devout Catholics. Early 70s?

TEXAN (AKA ME)

C’est moi, also a former Catholic, also white, but never voted for Trump.

Complicated feelings about abortion but my journey has brought me to wanting full abortion rights for all women, no matter what. I was wrong before, which is why I try not to be too harsh when I am talking to people who disagree with me, as I am living proof that minds can be changed, not just about this issue but about many issues. (I have been wrong about so many things.)

Act 1

Scene 1: Women Should Stop Being Floozies

THEO: I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that abortion wouldn’t even be an issue if women would just stop being such floozies. They get pregnant from their own irresponsible behavior.

ME: Floozies?

ME: (Are we in the 1950s?)

THEO: Women are so much more sexually aggressive these days. My friends tell me that women will go to bars and drink and proposition them!

ME: Men can say no.

THEO: Well they do.

ME (yeah right)

THEO: It’s their own irresponsible behavior that gets them into trouble.

ME: Do you even know anyone who’s had an abortion?

THEO: Of course I do! My neighbor told me she had one and she regrets it.

ME: That’s one. One woman. I guarantee you that you know women who’ve had abortions and you don’t know about it.

THEO: My neighbor told me!

ME: Women are not just going to volunteer that information to you. But we talk to each other. And I promise you that many of the women you know have had an abortion and you don’t know why. You don’t know why a woman has one but I guarantee you that “irresponsible behavior” is not the main reason.

Scene 2: Women Should Be Using Birth Control

ME: Are women not supposed to enjoy sex?

THEO: I guess, but they should use birth control.

ME: A lot of them do. But birth control can fail. Then what? Is an abortion OK then?

THEO: No. They should have thought of that.

ME: Are you aware that birth control not only fails a lot, but that the current methods – pills, IUD – have not really improved since the 1960s? And that there isn’t really anything new? What’s out there can have really bad side effects, too. I had to try eight different pill formulations before I found one I could stand.

THEO: It doesn’t fail that often.

ME: Even if it’s only one in a thousand, that’s one women out of a thousand every year, which is still a lot of women. She’s not supposed to be able to get an abortion?

(According to the CDC, the failure rate for the pill is closer to 7% than to the 0.1% I suggest here.)

THEO: No.

ME: So a woman does everything right and the birth control fails and she’s supposed to be punished by having a baby?

THEO: Yes. She could have said no. She could have said no to sex.

Scene 3: Women Should Ask Men To Wear Condoms

THEO: Why don’t they ask men to wear condoms?

ME: Why do the men need to be asked? Why is the burden on the women to ask? Why don’t men just wear them? Actually, why don’t men just get vasectomies?

Scene 4: If My Daughter Were Raped Abortion Would Be OK

ME: What about rape? Should someone who’s raped be forced to carry a baby to term?

THEO:

ME: What if your daughter were raped?

THEO: I guess I can see how an abortion might be acceptable in that case.

Scene 5: 12 Year Old Girls Can Get Abortions But Have You Seen Them?

ME: Have you seen the abortion statistics for the state? Do you know how many girls – girls under age 14 – have abortions? Do you think a 12 year old girl should be forced to have a baby?

THEO: Some of those girls – they want sex!

ME: They were raped.

THEO: They consented!

ME: It is not legally possible for a child that age to consent.

THEO: Have you seen what some of them look like?

ME: That is not the point. A 12 year old cannot consent to sex.

THEO: But —

ME: And I can promise you that if they are getting pregnant, it is not because they are having sex with a 12 year old boyfriend. The Memphis newspaper did an investigation years ago where they discovered that the majority of births in underage girls were because adult men had raped them.

THEO:

ME: And it counts as rape even if the man sweet talks them and treats them nice. It doesn’t have to be a gun to the head to be rape. It’s rape simply because these girls are underage.

THEO:

ME: Are you going to punish these girls further by making their underdeveloped bodies carry a pregnancy to term?

THEO: Maybe not.

Scene 6: I’m Not Trying To Impose My Religious Beliefs On Others

ME: You want your religious beliefs made law. But not all religions think abortion is wrong.

THEO: No I don’t!

ME: Don’t you want abortion to be illegal?

THEO: Yes.

ME: But Jews don’t think abortion is necessarily wrong. Why should your religion be making laws that affect other people’s religions?

THEO: Maybe there just shouldn’t be any laws at all about it.

ME: I would be fine with that.

Source

Funeral Food

What’s your favorite funeral food recipe?

Until my dad died, I thought the thing about people bringing food for a death was something that happened only in books.

But only hours after he died, in a hospital 35 miles away from his hometown, a place he hadn’t lived in 44 years, people started showing up at my grandmother’s house with food.

That’s when I got it.

It’s how you share the burden. It’s how you acknowledge – in a material way – that something has happened. It’s how you go beyond words to comfort.


I didn’t see this behavior modeled when I was a kid. Neither did Mr T.

But the reason I didn’t see it modeled was because I grew up on air force bases where you don’t see death. My dad even commented that that was one of the disadvantages of rearing children in that environment as opposed to the one he and my mom grew up in – that we weren’t around old people and we didn’t get a chance to see that death was a normal part of life.

Mr T didn’t see it modeled because his parents had no social graces. “They didn’t belong to a church,” he said.

“But they had neighbors!” I answered. “Surely there were deaths in the neighborhood!”

He shrugged.

(His parents also did not teach him to write thank-you notes.)


This book, y’all. My friend Kim gave it to me and it’s amazing.


Even in the days preceding my dad’s death, when my mom, my brother, my sister, and I were staying at the hospital hospice with him, my aunts and uncles and cousins took turns driving that 70-mile round trip every day to bring us meals.

Yes, there are restaurants in the city where the hospital is and yes, there was a kitchen in the hospice, but going out to eat and cooking are the last things on your mind when you are watching the slow death of someone you love.


I didn’t know then, but I sure know now. And ever since then, I have shown up with food.

I thought this knowledge was universal.

At least, I thought that by the time people reached full adulthood, it was known. It was known that this is What Is Done.

But last week, when my neighbor’s mother died, nobody else showed up.

My neighbor – who is also a friend – has lived in this town her entire life.

Her mom had lived here most of her adult life, I think.

My friend had been taking care of her mom these past few months and writing about it online, so her friends knew that her mom was ill.

My friend has also been very open about the challenges her family has faced with a child’s mental illness this past year.

Basically, any of my neighbor’s friends online know about what’s been going on with her and know that her mom died last week.

But when my friend thanked me online for bringing a meal over, I was the only one she thanked.

And all I did was make soup, bread, and brownies.

I cannot be the only one who took food over.

Can I? Maybe she has a ton of friends who aren’t online who showed up?

I’m not trying to brag. Because I didn’t do anything noteworthy. I did the bare minimum, actually. I certainly didn’t do anything big enough to be praised online for.

Where were her other friends?

Why didn’t anyone else take food?

And it’s not even like they have to cook – they could stop by the grocery store to pick up something hot from the deli or order a pizza.

Maybe they just don’t know?

Maybe everyone is so busy and so traumatized with all the other stuff going on that it didn’t occur to them? The past few years have been hard.

I think that’s the kinder interpretation.

That’s the one I’m going with.

How do we make sure everyone Knows Someone?

How do we create a just society?

I spent a lot of time thinking this white privilege bullshit did not apply to me.

I did not grow up in a rich home, or, according to my husband, whose family ate out at least once a month, even a middle class one.

I did not grow up with connected parents.

I have never gotten a job through networking.

My whiteness has never gotten me anything.

This white privilege stuff is all BS, I thought. IT’S BS.


And then I thought about my travels over land through South and Central America on my way back from Chile.

Wow.

Just writing those words – my travels through South and Central America – HOW DAMN PRIVILEGED IS THAT?

And that’s not even the part that made me see my privilege.

While I was traveling, no matter how disreputable I looked – I was clean, but hadn’t had a haircut in a while, and I was wearing kind of scruffy clothes and definitely scruffy boots – unlike the poor indigenous people who were the majority population in some of these countries, I could walk into the fanciest hotel in town and nobody would question me on my way to the ladies’ room.

Because even though I was scruffy and had a backpack, I was a blue-eyed blonde white scruffy person with a backpack.

I had privilege.

I have privilege.

Just because of the color of my skin.


I see the privilege now and I wonder what to do about it.

I see it most immediately when people I know exercise their privilege on behalf of their children.

I don’t blame them.

I don’t blame parents for networking with their friends on behalf of their kids.

I don’t blame them at all.

But – I also see that that is exactly how privilege is perpetuated.

And how those spaces – those interviews, those internships, those jobs – are not available for anyone else. Someone else might be just as qualified – or maybe even more qualified – for the job but now will never have a shot at it.


And then I realize – I HAVE DONE THIS!

I have networked on behalf of my friends’ kids and nieces. On behalf of my niece! MY NIECE IS AWESOME! Anyone who hires her is getting an amazing deal!

I have introduced them to people. I enjoy this! I want to help!

But – am I part of the problem?

I don’t know. I don’t have enough pull to get someone hired who isn’t qualified. Nobody will do me that kind of favor. But I can definitely get someone put at the front of the line.


However.

However.

Is this the same thing?

Am I right to be annoyed at this situation?

Someone in my college alumni facebook group asked for an internship for her son, who is a sophomore at the college.

First, this mom isn’t even an alum, so – why is she in an alum facebook group?

(OK, technically, the group is open to anyone, but why would you join a facebook group that is almost all alumni if you are not an alum? That’s just weird? It’s just as weird as my college combining homecoming and parents’ weekend into one event. I am not interested in hanging out with the parents of current students. We have nothing in common. Sheesh.)

Second, it was the first time this person had ever posted, so it wasn’t even like she had a relationship with anyone.

Third, she asked for an internship for a kid who is majoring in electrical engineering and computer science.

My friends.

Is there anyone in the world who needs less help finding a job than an EE/Comp sci major?

Just in case you aren’t up on your hiring trends – nopety nope nope NO.

Electrical engineers do not have a hard time finding work.

Mr T, a EE who has not been employed for a few years, could go back to work in seconds as a EE if he so desired.

It’s not like the kid is an English major.

I did not say anything, which is a new strategy I am trying and it’s killing me but I think it’s the right path as my usual approach is to open my mouth and put in not only my own feet but those of everyone around me – but total strangers did.

Yes, there were a few “My company will be hiring interns have him send me his resume” (because EEs are a scarce resource) but there were also a few “Has he talked to the people in the placement office?” and “Has he set up a LinkedIn profile, which are polite ways of asking, “Is he running his own job search the way a college student should be?” Which is the politeness I aspire to but don’t think I am capable of. Which is why I remain silent.

But I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that perhaps asking complete strangers to hire your son who should be looking for his own job was maybe not the way to go.


But as I write this, I wonder if perhaps I am wrong.

It has been known to happen.

Maybe a complete stranger – whose ethnicity and background is completely unknown to me – asking other strangers for help is not such a bad thing.

Yes, sure, I find it rude. But that’s me and I have been so, so wrong about so many things in my life and I’m sure I will be wrong about many things in the future.

Maybe this mom’s approach (I am assuming it was the mom) is the proper one.

Maybe this is how we break those privilege barriers and make sure everyone has a shot.

Maybe this IS how we make sure everyone knows someone.

Maybe we need more people breaking the rules instead of more people following them.

Hmm. I will be thinking about this. What do you think?