Just-so Stories

Amanda over at Pandagon mentioned the other day the ways in which male violence against women has been mythologized by these evolutionary psychologists who want to argue that everything we do is completely explainable if we only understand how it was we lived when we lived in caveman times.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons which are immediately obvious. One, there were no cameras back in caveman times, so we don’t really know how people lived back then. “Oh, Aunt B.,” you say, “But we do. We can just study how primitive tribes act now days.” To which I would respond also, in a two-fold manner (but we will use a. & b. because I’m already using one and two for the larger framing device) a. what constitutes “primitive”? and b. how can we be certain that these “primitive” tribes have always been exactly the way they are? Why do you assume we are the only ones capable of change? Your “primitive” tribes might be very changed from the ways they were 10,000 years ago. How would we know? And two, people one hundred years ago related to each other in ways we find so foreign as to be almost impossible to understand (see any discussion on whether Abraham Lincoln was gay). How can we begin to guess, even if we could say for certain how people acted 10,000 years ago, what such behavior means to them, let alone what the implications are for us?

But asking hard questions is not nearly as fun as making up my own stories also based in extrapolation from the animal world and guess-work about the needs of our ancestors.

So, I was thinking, what if we were more like wolves, who live in packs in which only the alpha male and alpha female reproduce? Human babies take a lot of work to raise and it would make sense if we had limited the number of women who were having children in the pack to better insure that the whole pack’s resources could go towards raising the babies it did have to adulthood.

As we all know, women are pregnant for nine months and babies can nurse for a year or two. This is a big expenditure of time for the woman and a big waste if the child dies before it’s old enough to contribute. Sure, one strategy is for all the women in the pack to have as many children as they’re physically capable of, hoping that some of them will make it to adulthood. But another strategy is to limit the number of children born and focusing many adults’ energy on making sure all the children born make it to adulthood.

Now, watch this as we make like evolutionary psychologists!

If only a limited number of women were bearing children then we can immediately see how homosexuality is necessary to the health and well-being of the pack. It has all the benefits of reproductive sex, in that it fosters close feelings between consenting partners, without the consequence of pregnancy. So, it frees up a lot of happy, well-loved folks to help raise the next generation to adulthood.

And it also explains the perplexing “problem” of the female orgasm. There never was any problem. Everyone in the pack benefits from the pleasurable bonding that come from sexual activity so everyone must be encouraged to participate: Voila, orgasms for everyone. If women can have orgasms with each other and men can have orgasms with each other, heterosexual sex can be confined to the breeding pairs, again, in order to ensure a small number of children guaranteed to grow to adulthood because they benefit from the participation of the whole pack in their upbringing.

Is this true? No, I just made it up. Is it likely? It’s as likely as any other myth we tell ourselves about why we are how we are.

…orgasms for everyone. Tee hee…


Dear Window Pane, Do You Remember…

Our first year of grad school I was madly in love with Missy Elliot’s “Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).” I just adored that song. So, imagine if you will, a rainy night in a small North Carolina city famous for tobacco, and Miss J and I and a couple of other folks are sitting in a hundred year old house just at the foot of the same interstate that runs by my house now.

The floorboards were creaky and the front of the house seemed to sag in the direction of the big front windows, under which were hundreds of records. The kid who was housesitting pulled one out and dropped the needle on the record and, at first, there was just that familiar hiss and crackle, and then “I can’t stand the rain, against my window.”

Wow. Ann Peebles.

Not just the sample that Elliot uses, but the whole damn song.

It’s a sad song, at least the lyrics are sad. But the horns let you know that there’s something else going on–defiance, anger, and, deeper than that. . . movement.

I hear that song, and I want to move. I want to drum my fingers on my steering wheel. I want to pull cute boys close and let one hand rest on their shoulder and let the other just sway by my side. I want to walk towards the kitchen to get another glass of wine and, as I’m walking by Miss J. I want her to take my hand and spin me around once and then let me go on my way.

How can a song that has lyrics more fitting for laying alone on your bed in the dark make you have to dance?

I don’t know, but it’s incredible.

That Damn White Dog

The white dog, the barky annoying sidekick to the stealthy annoying black dog, who I hated yesterday, is bleeding from its front leg this morning.

This is the first time we’ve walked by where the dog seemed more interested in me than in Mrs. Wigglebottom. When I saw the puncture wounds in its leg, I understood why.

Nashville, please, please keep your dogs fenced in if you’re going to leave them outside. Please don’t let them wander around the neighborhood where they could get hit or bitten or killed.

I hate your dogs. They should not have to come to me for compassion. That’s part of your fucking job as a dog owner.

The Little Hurts that Linger

I keep thinking that it must be strange to read Tiny Cat Pants and get the feeling that all is not well in the extended family of your dear Aunt B., but not be able to put your finger on what just exactly the problem is, since all my posts about them seem to be about what charming eccentrics they all are.

Here’s something that sucks about them, that I should be over by now, since it’s been almost half my life ago, but I’m not.

When I was 16, we moved to another little town in central Illinois. This one came equipped with a boy who was a good six foot three, a good two hundred and fifty pounds, a moody, creative, sensitive, boy a year older than me, who dated one of my best friends.

And who stalked me for three years. Just for starters, he broke into my house to leave things, stood at the end of my street, just staring at the house, threw me into a locker when I talked to some boy he didn’t approve of, screamed at my mom about what a whore she’d raised, kidnapped the Butcher, and made my life a kind of hell I would not wish on anyone.

To say it fucked me up is probably putting it mildly. I still don’t think I know how to quite trust that men who like me aren’t insane. I don’t think I have any idea how to let my guard down enough around men I actually like, and I’ve been unnecessarily mean to men I don’t. In fact, I think one of the good things that feminism has done for me (and, by extension, for the men I know) is to make me sure of my own competence and worth, which has gone a long way towards making me less of a pain in the butt towards you, dear men, and by extension, to myself. I hope, anyway.

But, while all this was going on, my parents did next to nothing. I say “next to nothing,” because they did do something–they blamed me. When this asshole befriended the Butcher–seven years his junior–and I begged them to forbid him from coming over to play ball with the Butcher in our front yard, they told the Butcher that I wouldn’t let this asshole come over. When the Butcher didn’t come home from school, because that asshole had picked him up and took him out for a drive to grill him about me, I got in trouble.

When he broke into the house to leave things, it was cute. And he was regularly invited over so that we could smooth things out.

I guess I was supposed to find some way to appease him and I was to blame for never being able to.

It’s funny how you can so clearly understand why something is how it is. I can know why it is that my parents cave to people who are bullies. And I can see that this was just the first time I noticed that. I can see how they carved for themselves a little life that is very insulated from most of the world and I can understand how important it was for them to keep us so near them, safe, and how terrible it must be to want to desperately to keep your children near you and safe while at the same time you are unable to stand up to bullies. How terrible to not be able to do the very thing you need most to be able to do in order to feel okay in a world you are afraid of.

I have so much compassion for them, but I’m still fucked up about it.

I was telling the Professor that there are just a couple of things I really need. I need for the 13-17 year old me to hear often that I am beautiful and brilliant. And I need for the 16-19 year old me to have my parents tell me they understand what’s going on and that I’m not bringing it on myself.

I don’t need that now. I don’t need to hear that now. It’d be terrible. It’d be so uncomfortable and weird and I would hate it. God, I would rather do just about anything than to have to have some kind of Resolution, where they weep and gnash their teeth and tell me I’m wonderful and how sorry they are.

God, the last thing I want is for my old-fart sixty-something parents to be apologizing for shit that happened half my life ago.

I hope you get that, and that it makes sense.

What really devastates me about the whole thing is that it’s shaped who I am in a way I really don’t like and that there’s no way to really fix it. I need for things to have gone completely different and there isn’t any way for that to ever happen.

And that’s what still makes me sad about it.

Vacationing with the Motorcycle Gang

All this talk of vacations has me thinking of the weirdest vacation we went on when I was a child. We were meandering through the Appalachians, with no particular destination in mind, and we were at this little campground way up in the mountains, just us and, as it happened, this vacationing motorcycle gang.

The gang was made up of about thirty men, with assorted women and children, and motorcycles and vans and rottweilers and other mean-looking dogs. Lots of tattoos and big moustaches and long hair (I thought they were strange-looking, but handsome. I still do.).

All us kids spent a good three days in the pool or playing in the creek. And my mom folded laundry with the women and my dad whooped out his guitar and amused them (god, I can’t even imagine) with his renditions of such classics as “House of the Rising Sun” and… well, he only knows three chords, but what he lacks in talent, he makes up for in enthusiasm, so I’m sure he bellowed his way through tons of songs.

And then we all packed up and moved on to the next place. For about a week, we just traveled with these bikers, because they were nice and we had no place we needed to be.

The unexpected result of this was that for a good three or four years, my dad would get at least two weddings a summer from this group. A couple and their kids would stop by and my mom and I would fish our official Harley Davidson t-shirts procured just for such an event out of a drawer and put them on and go stand as witnesses to the wedding.

God, we must have seemed so damn corny.