Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon lunacy

I don't mean to offend anyone who might be reading this (too much), but I have become absolutely sick of hearing female thirty-something friends and acquaintances rhapsodize about the New Moon movie. Apparently it's not just the women I know, either: CBS News reported a couple of days ago that, although "the movie is about teenagers and aimed at teenagers," half the audience is over the age of 21. CNN ran a story on November 16th entitled "Older women crave 'New Moon' vampires" that explored the phenomenon of "Twilight Moms" (more on that later).

It's not that I find this kind of obsessive fandom annoying in itself - after all, I got hooked on "Lost" when we actually had no TV, just by reading the transcripts online. What irritates me and, frankly, gives me a little bit of the heeby-jeebies is that New Moon appears to me to be a convergence of two really disturbing trends in our society: the sexualization of children and the infantilization of young adults.

Diane Levin, co-author of So Sexy So Soon: Protecting Children in a Sexualized Society says
she hears from worried parents about how pop culture and the bombardment of product advertising are making their young daughters focused on their appearance and being sexy, starting with girls as young as 5, and how that sets them up to believe it is fine for boys to see them as objects. ...[T]he sexualization of young girls disrupts their ability to develop meaningful relationships with peers, disrupts their ability to be empathetic to others and from developing normal sexual relationships later in life.
The Twilight series, of which New Moon is the second part, has been defended in many circles as a "love story that promote[s] chastity, among other virtues." But NPR reports that "if Twilight is trying to send a new message about teen abstinence, it might not be getting through," quoting one 17-year-old as saying, "That [Twilight] is completely selling sex to kids."

It's hard to argue that New Moon isn't selling sex to somebody, anyway, when the media blitz for the movie includes Ashley Greene, the female lead, posing suggestively on and in the most recent issue of Maxim magazine. And male lead Robert Pattinson tells Rolling Stone that "it's really strange" for girls as young as eight years old to have an "incredibly sexualized thing around [him]," considering the books are said to promote chastity. "I think it [the series] has the opposite effect on its readers though," he says.

Twilight has that effect on more than just its young fans (i.e., its "target demographic"), though, and that's where the intersection of social phenomena really seems to happen. Pattinson in particular seems to be of special interest to "cougar" Twilight fans, according to the CNN story cited above. A 32-year-old woman named Jenny tells the reporter, "We love to talk about how sexy Rob Pattinson is and what we would do if we got close... No one's being judged for being married and saying, 'I'm 54 and I think this 23-year-old is absolutely delicious.' " Another woman says she knows people who justify their attraction to Edward (Pattinson's character) by telling themselves, "Edward is just in a 17-year-old body, but he's actually 108."

What I think is at the root of this is not only that these women are not "acting their age," but that many of them never really learned what it means to do so. Many people in their 20s and 30s today were raised in an environment in which parents often tried to be more "buddies" with their kids than authority figures. The extreme example of this is the infamous "Cool Mom" of Arvada, Colorado who told police she had sex with some of the friends of her teenage children and "also provided marijuana, methamphetamine, and alcohol to the teens because she wanted to be a 'cool mom' and it made her feel like she was 'one of the group.'"

I believe this style of parenting is one of the factors that has brought us to a point at which, according to Robert Epstein - who is a psychologist and the author of The Case Against Adolescence - "most Americans now believe a person isn't an adult until age 26." This artificial extension of childhood, or "infantilization," has numerous negative effects on both young adults and society, according to Epstein. "Imagine what it would feel like," he says, "when your body and mind are telling you you're an adult while the adults around you keep insisting you're a child. This infantilization makes many young people angry or depressed, with their distress carrying over into their families" and causing tension and conflict with those around them.

So, we now have pre-teens who think they are adults and thirty-somethings who think they are teenagers, and they all come together to lust after the sexy 17-year-old vampire. But besides provoking something of an "Ew!" reaction, is there anything really wrong or harmful with a 15-30 year span of people essentially viewing themselves as peers? I think the answer is clearly yes.

To cite just one area in which these trends are problematic, think about the seemingly dramatic increase in inappropriate student-teacher relationships in schools. Charol Shakeshaft, an expert in teacher sexual misconduct, says young teachers are "certainly more at risk" of engaging in problematic relationships with their students for a number or reasons, including "[p]roximity in age to their students, immaturity and a classic novice-teacher mistake of wanting students to like them." These "inappropriate relationships" can range from the dramatically ill-advised, such as telling a class of eighth-graders about how you were unexpectedly impregnated by your boyfriend of just a couple of months (as recently happened in our little town), to the criminally sexual (as has been alleged to have happened in our little town during the past year).

The common thread is that these teachers are not the stereotypical "dirty, old men" many people envision. They may not be "dirty" or even necessarily predatory. It's just that both the students and the teachers are under the illusion that, rather than being an authority figure, Mr. X is the "big man on campus" or, rather than being the tough grader everybody struggles to satisfy, Ms. Y is the cool older sister in whom you can confide. I think this is symptomatic of a much broader breakdown in appropriate generational boundaries and our understanding of authority... and so is the New Moon phenomenon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quick Takes Friday - the countdown begins!

It's a really good thing hubby isn't the one who usually does quick takes. He came home last night (he and the girls got kicked out of the house for my bible study group) and told me that he only had to work for a couple of hours today, and asked if there was anywhere I wanted to go, or anything I wanted to do. Well, he left for work this morning, got there, realized it was Friday (he had been thinking it was Saturday) and thought that since he really hasn't worked the window in the morning in months, he would just change during his lunch break into his uniform. Well, about 20 minutes after he was supposed to be at work, he came crashing back into the house to change into his uniform, because his boss wanted him to work the window...go figure!

The countdown - 7 more days of work (8 if you count today) then hubby will be done!

Eva rode in a tractor with grandma last night...something that she has wholeheartedly refused to do up until now (I think she only agreed because it was with grandma instead of grandpa...but she says she'll even ride with grandpa sometime now!) and she had a great time. Once we can convince that chicken of a kid to do something, she usually ends up having a great time. Like when the last day of swim lessons they were allowed to go down the water slides...Eva would NOT do it, until I threatened and bribed and her favorite swim teacher said he would take her down...then she wanted to go again and again.

Charlotte goes to a coop preschool once a week, and this week when I went to pick her up, the mom in charge told me that there had been a bit of a catastrophe. So, I'm having visions of Charlotte smashing something really expensive (since I could see her happily playing when I was told this...) Turns out the little stinker gave herself a haircut while my friend was working with one of the other kids. Sadly, I didn't think that warranted the word "catastrophe" since it wasn't her first time cutting her own hair, and I doubt very highly it will be her last. Fortunately, it isn't very obvious where she cut it, so I didn't even have to give her a cut to repair it.

I'm getting quite a stash to wrap for Christmas! Unfortunately, I moved my wrapping paper organizer to my MIL's I'll have to brave it down there next time we visit and bring my big canvas bags of gifts along. I'm trying to decide whether I am done shopping for the girls or not. I always swore I would never go overboard like my mom always did at Christmas...well, let's just say I never will be able to go that overboard while we live on one income, but there is a joy in buying gifts for your kids that I didn't particularly anticipate.

Okay...speaking of that not going overboard item above...I have to admit, I was looking around online for something for the family that I wanted to get, but didn't really know if it was a good idea (a little bit pricey...) and I just took the plunge, and so an excessive Christmas will now officially happen (not that the whole Hawaiian vacation from my parents didn't already make it an excessive Christmas, or anything...)

Here's hoping to a lack of buyer's remorse...

More quick takes at Jen's blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

House showing today...

We are having a house showing today, and I am so nervous I feel like I am going to throw up. I think I'll probably feel this stressed out every time someone looks at the house until it sells.

There are many advantages to living in a rural area, but selling real estate is not one of mom really doesn't seem to understand this. She keeps telling me that she always knew someone was very interested when she kept seeing the same card from a realtor on her countertop after a showing. Of course, when you live in a town with two (maybe 3) realty businesses, they don't do silly things like leave business cards...besides, I think my mom keeps thinking that our house should be having showings all the time...but when the whole town is about 2000 people, that's not a lot of population to come see the house.

So, please pray for us today (and whenever you think of us!) that we get a reasonable offer on the house soon!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Before I get to the meat of this post, I just want to share a little aside: when somebody at work recently said, "It's all about semantics," one of his co-workers replied (jokingly, mercifully): "What do you have against Jewish people?!" But I digress.

MM and I had a good conversation recently. I know - husbands and wives aren't supposed to do that - but it occasionally happens around here. I told her that I've really struggled with wrapping my mind around this, and I certainly don't agree with how this idea has translated into legislation in Washington, but I do agree with the basic premise that (as our own Archbishop Chaput phrased it), "The Church regards access to basic health-care services as a right, not a privilege."

I said that I knew everyone already had the right to emergency medical care, but that I knew of a person in our town who had tried to kill himself because he was diagnosed with cancer and couldn't pay for chemo treatments, and it made me think of loved ones who have gone through that struggle or similar ones. Emergency rooms don't offer treatments for leukemia or multiple sclerosis, after all.

MM responded that, for all intents and purposes, government-run health care wouldn't either. Especially in the case of someone whose "best days are behind him or her," the treatment for MS would probably amount to pain meds and a wheelchair. And if you were lucky enough to get chemo or other more aggressive treatments for cancer, the delay in treatment would probably render them meaningless.

Then she said something that I thought was fairly profound. "Maybe," she said, "we can agree that everyone ought to have health care when they need it, but I'd rather not call it a right. If we think of it as a right or 'an entitlement,' we expect it to come from somewhere else - such as the government. If we think of it as an obligation that we have to those who can't afford it, then maybe we end up in the same place, but we get there in a whole different way."

We have something of a model for this way of thinking in our town. There is a fairly small Hispanic community here, and they do a very admirable job of looking out for one another. There are frequently Mexican food buffets to raise money to help with a family whose father needs dialysis treatments, or another who has a young child with cancer. I don't know what kind of dent these make in medical bills, but they serve as a great example for the rest of the community - and provide some hope and reassurance that someone cares whether you live or die, which the person I told MM about apparently did not have.

The whole system of Knights of Columbus life insurance actually started in pretty much the same way. Catholic immigrants to America in the 19th Century frequently held dangerous and poorly-paying jobs, and this often left widows and orphans who today would probably become essentially "wards of the state." But back then, a group of visionary men led by Fr. Michael McGivney decided that it was their obligation to provide a way for Catholic men to give their wives and children some level of support in the event of a death in the family. This did not presume that the government would "take care of them," it was a solution that they could implement on the local level through cooperation.

This is the essence of another principle cited by at least some of the Catholic bishops in regards to the healthcare debate: namely, "subsidiarity." Our Sunday Visitor recently ran an article weighing the two, possibly competing, ideas that people have a right to health care, yet we should strive to
"respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives," in the words of the bishops of KC, K and KC, MO.

So, this might be a good starting point. I think MM and I are both right to some degree on this: however you want to say it, people do have a right to medical treatment (as far as I'm concerned); at the same time, we would be foolish to expect this right to be fulfilled by the government. I don't think bake sales and buffets are ultimately going to make a huge impact (at least financially) on people's health expenses, and I do think there are places where government could improve the insurance system (such as limiting tort awards and allowing nationwide competition between companies), but MM's point is essential: we need to start with the assumption that we are responsible for meeting the needs of one another in our community.

From there, we "just" need to find the Fr. McGivneys of our time: people who will develop creative ways of addressing an identified problem, without expecting the nanny state to do it for us. Again, quoting Archbishop Chaput (as cited in the OSV article mentioned above),
"Real healthcare reform need not automatically translate into federal programming."

Quick Takes Friday

Well, our house is officially in the local paper and on our realtor's website. We still haven't had any showings since we officially listed it. I am getting pretty tired of having the house super clean at all times. Having to be so neat all the time makes cooking meals and homeschooling more difficult.

Hubby has no more than 12 more days of work left. Only 16 days total until he is done there, and then we'll start a strange month of traveling back and forth to the farm while still living here.

We had the girl's portraits taken on Wednesday, which being a federal holiday we deemed "home school picture day." So today's pictures come from that (we bought the CD so that we could share them so, we own the copyright to all of these.)

My bible study group met last night, we had a very good discussion about improving our spiritual lives, and one of the ladies told us that one thing that she has started doing is reading the daily readings on her computer before getting on Facebook in the morning. I thought that was a great idea, so we set our homepage to EWTN, and this morning (in my normal morning stupor) I remembered to read the daily readings, plus at EWTN, they have a Saint's quote for each day as well.

Charlotte turns 3 tomorrow! I can't believe she is getting so big. I've been trying to get a bunch of pictures ordered for printing, and it's been a while since my last batch, so I have two years worth of pictures of the's amazing to see how much they've grown from last Halloween to this Halloween, or from last year's portraits to this year's portraits.

We are all recovering from being sick...finally! This weekend Charlotte spiked a fever (103) and so I took her into the doctor on Monday. I decided to make sure to see our normal doctor, since we'd already taken Charlotte in twice to one of the other doctors. Turns out that she had a double ear infection. So, in the past few weeks, I've had antibiotics for a sinus infection, Eva for pneumonia, and Charlotte for ear infections. I am looking forward to us all being done with medicine and better overall.

Speaking of the weekend...we managed to pull off that 50th birthday party for MIL. She even enjoyed the party...we had a great turnout, particularly considering that we started inviting people Friday morning, and the party was Saturday evening. After the big cake and ice cream reception, we got Chinese food and did a smaller family thing (of course, the smaller family thing still involved 13 people...but really, that's pretty small for hubby's family!) Really, it was a great party...everything went smoothly, and there wasn't a lot of pressure on us to make it great because it was so last minute. Hubby's sister ordered a cake at Walmart, bought a table cloth, Premium M & Ms, nuts, candles, plates, cups, napkins, and a pop up decorative card. Hubby's aunt booked the room, ordered the gift (at least a month ago), wrapped it, got a card for us all to sign. SIL brought over serving utensils and serving bowls, then hosted Chinese food at their house. We made a batch of iced tea, bought a gallon of ice cream, and brought plastic utensils. That was it...I'd definitely plan a party that way again.

More quick takes at Conversion Dairy!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

Well, our house is now officially listed. We had our first showing yesterday, and I guess the guy thought the house was nice, but didn't like it being so close to the railroad tracks. Now, our town is pretty dinky, and I don't really think there is ANY place IN TOWN where you will not at least hear the trains as they go through...we at least get to see them. We've been praying to St. Joseph to intercede for us for a quick and relatively painless sale of our house. The good news is that our agent thought it could sell for more than we paid for it four years ago (of course, we bought it unfinished, and put quite a bit of money into finishing the house), the bad news is that we're listing it at $14,000 less than it appraised for four years ago. Bummer.

We've finished with most of the little projects around the house. Hubby still is cleaning out the crawl space a little bit, and wants to put up a few pieces of trim in the kitchen. But we are now at the hard in, staying home all day in, and homeschooling in a house that is within a couple of minutes of clean every day.

Hubby has no more than 19 more days of work. His last day will be the 30th of this month, so 24 days total.

The girls had a fun time trick or treating on Halloween...we started at Grandma's house, and went around to most of hubby's aunts and uncles out in the country. We even trick or treated at the house we will be living in next year, and got a tour. So, now I actually know the layout of the whole house (I had only ever been in the living room, kitchen and mudroom of the house before). The aunt and uncle living in the house now are going to be moving into town, but are waiting on their son-in-law to come do some tile work (he's a contractor) and he keeps delaying when he will be able to do who knows if they will be out by the time hubby has to start work up there on January 1st!

Eva is still coughing a lot, even after a full run of antibiotics, so we probably need to take her back to the doctor...we just aren't sure when to do it! Honestly, I am so sick of being at the clinic now that it's not even funny. We were just there with Charlotte, because we thought she might have a urinary tract infection...turns out she is fine physically, but the doc thinks that the stress of our upcoming move might be the problem causing her to have accidents frequently, so besides more laundry and the use of pull ups sometimes, there's not much we can do.

I taught Charlotte's coop preschool class this week, which was exhausting. Note to self...I do not EVER want to be a preschool teacher or daycare provider. We made pumpkin bread, did a porcupine glue craft, learned about the number 2, read a story about a raccoon, and made raccoon masks. I think the kids all had fun, but it was just draining...probably in part because while the preschoolers were working on their crafts, I was working with Eva on some of her school stuff, so she did her handwriting, part of religion, phonics and part of her math during the coop preschool time. She got to help make pumpkin bread, listen to the story and do free play with the other kids.

MIL's birthday is next week, and it looks like she'll be in the tractor driving grain cart for dry corn harvest on her birthday, so the other night while she was at church, my FIL called me TWICE to make sure we were planning something for MILs birthday. We all went in on a gift for her (which I can't state here, in case she reads this before we celebrate!) and he wanted to make sure she had something since it is her 50th birthday. So, we've been going back and forth plotting on facebook, but we have about four indecisive people trying to make last minute plans, so it's a little bit slow going. I have a feeling that hubby and I will be making a bunch of phone calls tonight...that is, once we have a confirmed place for the shindig...we will have a cake, that much I know already. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get this all pulled together by tomorrow!

More quick takes at Conversion Diary!