My Grandma Puts a Price on My Mom

My mom called to have a good cry about my brother, and to tell me that my nephew’s great grandfather died last night.  Poor oldest nephew.  Damn.

We finally moved on to happier things, such as my mom helping my grandma go through her junk and finding an old receipt for the Palmer House Hotel from December 15, 1945 for $25.  My mom was all, “Why did you keep this?”

And my grandma was like “I think that’s when your dad got discharged.  We spent a weekend at the Palmer House.”

And my mom’s telling me how there’s all these charges for, like, using the radio and stuff.

And then my mom is all “Hey, I was born on September 9, 1946!”

And my grandma was all like, “Well, you didn’t expect me to just shake his hand when he got back, did you?”


Both Amanda and Ampersand are talking about this small study in which sexually active young women and old girls who are in abusive relationships report that their partners also intentionally try to get them pregnant by “manipulating condom use, sabotaging birth control use and making explicit statements about wanting them to become pregnant.”

I keep thinking about this idea that women choose to have sex and, if you’re going to choose to have sex, you should be prepared for the consequences.  If your boyfriend is abusing you and sabatoging birth control, what kind of choice do you really have?

I think we forget how much pressure young girls feel to have a boyfriend and how much pressure they feel to keep said boyfriend once they’ve gotten him.

We really seem to train young people to hurt and be hurt by each other.  We tell this story about how boys will be boys, about how they want sex so much that they will go to any lengths to get it, and how it’s a girl’s job to “preserve” herself, and to control men by controlling their access to sex.

Just think about that for a second: we say “boys will do anything to get sex” and we say “girls can control boys by controlling their access to sex.”  We say that to adolescents, people who are at an age where they don’t want to be controlled and where they are pushing all kinds of societal limits, and where they are seeking to exert control over their environments.

We tell them all kinds of other dumb stuff, too, that girls say “no” when they mean “yes,” and that, if a guy really likes you, he will persistantly pursue you, so that you end up with these weird situations where some girls are saying no because they really, really, don’t want to have sex and some girls are saying no because they think that’s what you do in order to signal to your guy to pursue you AND where some guys push the issue because they think you’ve just said no because that’s what you’re supposed to do and some guys push the issue because they “will do anything to get sex,” even raping a girl.

But I think that just this idea that boys will do anything to get sex and that girls are supposed to deny boys sex results in a lot of sexualized abuse in young relationships.

Over at Pandagon, one of the commenters asked why, when so many young men abandon their responsibilities once they get a girl pregnant, are some young men intentionally trying to knock women up?  One might also ask, if so many abusers kill their pregnant partners, why they bother to get them pregnant in the first place?  (Check here to be depressed.)

But to me, those are all a part of the same impulse–the impulse the abuser has to prove to the abused that the abuser, not the abused, is in control, that there is no boundary (not making you pregnant, not causing you to miscarry, not hitting you while you’re pregnant, not even killing you) he will not cross in order to keep control of you.

One out of five teenage girls reports being physically or sexually abused by a partner.

You know, one of the things that really, really bugs me about the abortion debate is how the rhetoric of abuse gets tied into it without us ever really examining the implications of that.

Abortion: The Ultimate Child Abuse.

But what does it imply when so much of the anti-abortion rhetoric sounds like the rhetoric of abuse?  Women can’t be trusted with important decisions.  She brought this on herself.  She needs to take responsibility for what happens to her.  She’s being hurt for her own good.

I’d like to score oodles of political points by suggesting that it implies that people who want to make abortion illegal are abusive assholes, but I don’t think it’s that easy.  I do think, though, that it has to do with us, as a society, not yet viewing women as adult, whole citizens.

We recognize that it is wrong for a man to say, “Well, I killed my wife and unborn baby because she was an uppity bitch who wouldn’t listen.”  But I’m not sure we completely get what’s wrong about that.  I mean, I think we get that killing women is wrong. I don’t think that we get that asserting yourself as the boss of a particular woman or women in general is wrong.

Not to keep harping on this, but god damn, ten white men standing around signing the partial birth abortion ban and only the feminists think that’s weird.  We can look at that picture and literally not see it for the strange object that it is–men coming together to prevent women from doing something they don’t like.

It’s as if we only know two ways to try to make someone do what we want them to do–convincing and coercing–and we, as a society, have decided that, when it comes to women, it’s still okay to coerce us into doing what you want.


This is what I’ve been thinking a lot about this weekend.  I think that, for a lot of people, it’s having kids that makes them realize that they are the adult generation now, that they’re the ones who are going to have to make decisions and be responsible, even if they feel inadiquate to the task.  For others, it probably happens when a parent dies.

For me, it’s been this experience.  The recalcitrant brother being in jail is not the end of my world.  I love him and he’s a sweetie, but you can only make the choices he’s been making for so long before it catches up to you.

That sucks, but it’s not earth-shattering.

What has just shook me to the core is witnessing the general incompitence and floundering of my parents.  My dad, for instance, spent Thursday and Friday getting the money together to get my brother out of jail, getting the car road-worthy, and discussing the recalcitrant brother’s situation with the recalcitrant brother’s neighbor.

He never thought to call a lawyer or the jail or the courthouse.  He’s getting all his legal advice from my brother’s neighbor.  And he calls me to tell me this stuff and I ask him about calling, you know, folks who would actually know what was going on and it’s completely apparent that he hadn’t thought to do it and that he wouldn’t even know where to start to do it.

So, I did it.

And, just to sidetrack for a second, I can’t tell you how furious it makes me that I spent my whole life hearing him bitch about how bossy I am and yet, clearly, when the chips are down, he wants me to take charge of things.  Gentlemen, remember this, it is fucked up to make your daughter feel like you hate the thing about her you depend most on her for.

But you see how that doesn’t matter?  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  It upsets me and all this stuff gets dragged up whenever it comes to my family.  But it doesn’t matter.

If we’re going to get the recalcitrant brother out of jail, someone’s got to make a plan, make some arrangements, and help everyone else stick to them.

And it doesn’t look like there’s anybody but me to do it.

That kind of scares the shit out of me.