How long ago did I write that thing about how saying “Happy holidays” meant you were a child of Satan? It’s been a few years, but we’re still dealing with people who take some kind of personal offense to being greeted that way rather than with “Merry Christmas.” Now, Donald Trump is being hailed as a hero for giving the country permission to say “Merry Christmas” again. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more weird.
It’s almost over.
This election season has been hell. I was a Bernie Sanders supporter, and when he lost the primary, I was hit hard. I’m not a political expert by any means; I don’t know a lot about public policy or the ins and outs of political wrangling. I don’t know enough, I guess, to look past the human being that each candidate represents and understand the political machinery inside their heads.
I know that there was a guy who wanted to help people, and that wasn’t what the majority wanted. That’s putting things in the most simplistic terms possible, but that’s the bottom line. He wanted to help, and people said no.
And then it got ugly, uglier than any campaign I’ve seen in my, what, 24 years? of voting.
Every time Donald Trump opened his mouth, I thought, “No. This is where people say, ‘enough’.” That “enough” never happened, and we are looking at the reality of him becoming president. Frankly, after seeing the lack of response to the horrific way the Sioux tribe is being treated over DAPL, I don’t feel good about anyone in the running. The teenage son of a woman with whom I’m acquainted was beaten and jailed, just for being there. He had gone there with his family to help feed those trying to defend their water supply. A cousin of a writer I know suffered the same, having his possessions stolen on top of everything else. These are real people being hurt, not characters on a TV show, but we watch as if they are, less angry about their fate than we are about Glenn’s poor scrambled brains leaking onto the set of The Walking Dead.
I’m a cranky, apathetic, cynical little shit, but this lack of caring on such a massive scale is crushing me. Lack of concern for Native Americans, for LGBT folks, for people of color, for children, for women, the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, veterans… Lack of concern, it seems, for anyone who isn’t involved in the exclusive financial circlejerk that is our federal government.
So I went and I voted, not for anything in particular, but against the worst of it. I voted against Trump, and against the disgusting governor of my state, Pat McCrory, who has worked incredibly hard to destroy the lives of as many of his constituents as he possibly can. I voted, and I felt just as bad walking out as I did going in.
Election season is like Christmas when you’re a kid. You get all riled up in the weeks before, deal with the inevitable elation or disappointment when the gifts are all unwrapped, and then a week later, the new clothes are in the washer with all your old stuff, the new toys are on their sides with dead batteries, and you’re back in school having the same old conversations about the same old shit and learning the same pointless garbage they’ve been feeding you since you were toilet trained.
It’s not going to get better unless we keep being angry past election day. We have to keep fighting everything that’s wrong, every day. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s not fun, and there’s something cool on Netflix, and we have money for Taco Bell, so tonight let’s not think about it, right? And tomorrow it’s something else, and the next day, another thing, and then it’s election day again and we’re irate again, for just a minute, and then it’s done.
And then it’s done.
And trans people keep getting beaten up in bathrooms. And gay people keep getting their houses painted with ugly graffiti. And the mentally ill keep floundering, with nowhere to go for help, and children keep going hungry, and veterans keep dying on the streets for lack of care, and women die of cancer while they try to raise the funds for mammograms. Black men keep getting murdered for the crime of being Black. Native Americans choose between bullets or giving in to slow poisoning, and the politicians keep getting richer with every shot that’s fired. But every four years, we give a shit, so it’s okay.
I’m going to take a nap.
My new book, Chicken Soup for the Fuck You: Inspirations, Observations, and Character Assassinations is now available in print and Kindle format via Amazon.
Here’s a little about the book:
“Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is spit straight from the hyperactive brain of a lifelong oddball who has, to put it simply, seen some shit. In the process of finding her voice after a decade and a half of quiet, April Fox puts a wry spin on politics, religion, and the weird and wonderful aspects of everyday life, including parenting a herd of eclectic children. In between, there are periods of darkness, and those are reflected here too.
In short, “Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is a feel-good book for people who hate feel-good books.
April’s work has been described as “Intoxicating… Awesome, inspiring, and resonating all the way.”
“…a huge dose of reality.”
“Enigmatic and thought-provoking, but still touching.”
Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is a collection of essays (some previously published here) in line with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, interspersed with brief one-liners and a few lines of verse. It runs the gamut from Barbie’s role model status to evangelist Pat Robertson’s readiness to come out of the closet to why kids with autism don’t make the best survey subjects sometimes. One early reader said he was laughing on one page, raging on the next, and on the verge of tears with the one after that; another, before reading, hoped the book came with “a piece of the author’s brain.” Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is exactly that: a slice of my brain, stuffed inside a paperback cover and served straight to you, ready to be enjoyed.
I posted this on my Facebook page this morning, but I thought I’d share it here as well.
Dennis Hastert sexually abused multiple children while he worked as a boys’ wrestling coach. He watched them shower. He gained their trust and then fondled them. He didn’t dress up like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, as proponents of bills like HB2 like to imagine. His disguise was much more clever and far more terrifying: He was a monster dressed as an authority figure, a buddy, a role model. He was like the thousands of coaches, teachers, clergy members, family members, family friends, camp counselors and others to whom we entrust our children every single day.
If there are nearly 750,000 predatory sex offenders free to enter our public restrooms in any form of attire, that’s what we need to address.
We need to address the fact that there are statutes of limitations on sex crimes, despite widespread knowledge that it can take victims many years before they are able to talk about what happened. They suffer in silence and then are told “Sorry, it was too long ago. Deal with it.”
We need to address the leniency in sentencing and the ease with which those in positions of power can often buy their way out of trouble.
We need to address the stigma of sexual abuse.
We need to address the idea of better education, so children feel more confident saying no, and speaking out.
We need to address the ignorance that teaches our children to fear anyone who looks different, but to follow without question anyone in a position of authority.
We need to address the reality that gender identity is a complex thing, not defined solely by the contents of your trousers.
We need to address the safety of transgender people, androgynous-appearing people, gay and lesbian people, as others in the community seek to harm them simply for needing to use the bathroom.
We need to address the safety of our children, who are at exponentially greater risk for suicide and self-harm if their sexuality and identity are not understood and supported by family and community members.
We do not, I promise you, need to address the question of whether or not your genitals match those of the person in the next stall over. If that is your concern, over all the others I just listed, then you are undoubtedly part of the problem.
Earlier this week, Bruce Springsteen announced that he was canceling an upcoming North Carolina concert because of his opposition to HB2. The law, also known as North Carolina’s “Bathroom bill,” removes state protections against discrimination, and demands that people use single-sex restrooms in public facilities such as schools and government offices in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates, not the gender with which they identify.
Springsteen’s voice is one of the most powerful in the music world, and the statement he made by boycotting North Carolina is a strong one. He’s letting fans and the state of North Carolina know in no uncertain terms that he does not support discrimination, and that’s a message that might have a positive effect on fans who were in agreement with the law.
Springsteen isn’t the only person to have cancelled appearances in North Carolina because of HB2, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue for a while. And while I appreciate these celebrities joining our fight for equality, I’m seeing things from a different perspective, too.
Yesterday, the manager of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe published a letter about how the boycott can hurt small businesses. Author Sherman Alexie was the first to cancel his appearance at Malaprop’s, not only costing the store business but also taking away an important cultural experience from the people who wanted to hear him speak. Again, I understand and appreciate the gesture; I don’t really want to be in this state either. But Malaprop’s has a decades-long history of supporting LGBT causes, and by boycotting the state, Alexie is [no doubt inadvertently] hurting the good guys.
North Carolina is a state in crisis, and we have been for a while. Our teachers are pitifully underpaid, we have too many children living in poverty, and our state lawmakers voted against the Medicaid expansion so that many families are still uninsured. Right now, I’m saving money to get an important test to determine whether or not a mass in my uterus is cancer, because I fall into that lower-middle class gap. And now there’s HB2, which was called the worst anti-LGBT piece of legislation in history when it was passed. I get it: We suck, many of our state legislators are a bunch of heartless power-mongers, and the only way to hit them where it hurts is to go straight for the wallet.
Problem is, the rest of us have wallets too, and they’re already painfully thin. My husband works in the music industry as a performer, studio owner, and sound engineer. The venues where he runs sound aren’t owned by mega-corporations, they’re owned by regular human beings, people who live in our communities with their families and are just trying to make a living, like the rest of us. My husband runs sound for bands from all over the country, and he loves his work. I work as a teacher and make a little money writing, but his music jobs are what keep our family afloat.
When you cancel a show in Asheville, or anywhere in North Carolina, you’re making a fantastic statement, but you’re also hurting local families who are just as much opposed to that bill as you are. If my husband misses one gig due to a boycott or any other reason, there goes our weekly grocery money. A night of work is a car payment, school clothes for the kids, car insurance, part of the rent… it’s a huge chunk of our life. It’s a huge chunk out of the life of anyone who depends on others’ performances to make a living, from the bartenders to the sound engineers to the business owners trying to figure out how they’re going to make payroll this week.
To those considering boycotting North Carolina in opposition to HB2, I say thank you. Thank you for standing behind our transgender friends and family. Thank you for having the balls to speak out against an absolutely deplorable piece of legislaion that hurts not only the LGBT community, but everyone. But please, consider keeping that date. Come read your stories to us; play some music and let us dance for you. Speak up while you’re here. Use your time in North Carolina to let local fans know that you stand with them, that you agree that Pat McCrory is a spineless, bigoted jerk and needs to be stopped. Use your time on our stages to speak out against HB2, while showing that you support the people our governor is trying to destroy.
Every time legislation is passed that has anything to do with civil rights, things like being allowed to marry or use the bathroom in peace or whatever, people start using children as proxies for their fear and lack of understanding. It spreads like a rash across social media, this epidemic of made-up conversations kids are having with the adults in their lives and the resulting deep and moving concern about what to tell the children. “What am I supposed to say when little Khloweei asks about the gay couple in the produce section? How am I supposed to explain transsexuals in the bathroom? My child is too young to be talking about sex!”
Spoiler alert, in case you don’t want to read this whole super-long thing: You don’t have to talk about sex. It isn’t about sex, even. Not at all. I know, it’s shocking, what with the gays and the trannies humping each other all over the bus stop and the amusement parks and shit like that. I know they look like normal people doing normal things with their normal lives, but underneath, totally humping, willy-nilly everywhere.
But really, I’m sorry if you’re confused about how to address your kids’ questions. I’m not belittling that, at all. My kids have asked some things that have made me wish for a time machine so that I could go back and hide in the bathroom five minutes before they decided to ask. Kids ask some intense questions, and some very serious questions, and those should without a doubt be answered. But. (You know me, there’s always a but.)
Here’s what’s really important to remember: children don’t think like adults.
To a small child, everything is new and different. They don’t have decades of experience and context to which they can relate their everyday lives and observations, like we do. Their points of reference are self-centered. I don’t mean that in the negative way it’s often used, but literally: their experience centers around themselves.
And so when you’re standing at a crosswalk beside two men holding hands, you’re taking in everything: They’re adults. They’re smiling at each other, leaning into each other, laughing quietly. One has a take-out box from that fancy candle-lit restaurant up the street; clearly, they’re on a date, and if they only got one box for leftovers, they must be going home together. One man has a bottle of wine tucked into his elbow. They’re going home to drink wine. It’s going to be romantic. They’ll probably end up having sex. That’s what’s running through your head when your child says, “Mommy, why are those boys holding hands?”
You know what’s going through your kid’s head, most likely? Why do those boys have to hold hands to cross the street? They’re grown-ups. Grown-ups can go by themselves. That’s weird. So how do you answer that question? Try something like, “Sometimes people hold hands when they like each other. I guess they must like each other.” Chances are, your kid is going to give you a really insightful response, probably something along the lines of, “Oh. Look, there’s a squashed caterpillar on the sidewalk. Can I touch it?”
When your child asks why Auntie has a girlfriend, he’s probably not wondering why she prefers women to men. It’s probably just the same question kids ask roughly eleven million times a day: Why? Why are my socks blue? Why is that spaghetti? Why is that lady’s butt so big? Why can’t I touch that squashed caterpillar? Why does Auntie have a girlfriend?
And just like above, it’s a pretty simple answer: “They must like each other.”
If your child is old enough that he’s beginning to understand what kind of relationships are more common than others and to notice when things look a little different than what he’s used to, and his question really is about why Auntie likes girls and not boys, that’s an easy answer too: “Some girls like other girls.” If they ask for more, you can give that information without making everything about sex. I’m pretty sure when your kid asked you why you and Daddy got married, for example, you didn’t say, “Well, Snugglemuffin, we just wanted to make sure your daddy would be able to stick his pecker in me every night for the rest of his life.” You probably talked about love and happiness and friendship — and those are the same things you talk about when you’re talking about Auntie and her girlfriend. Easy peasy, man. You don’t even have to learn anything new.
Of course, the big thing now is transgender. Everybody’s freaking out about the transgenders in the bathrooms and Oh…my… Gawwwwwwd what if my precious little snowflake Mhaddisynne Claire goes in the bathroom and sees a person who looks like a man in a dress? WHAT DO I TELL HER?”
Well first off, tell her potty time is privacy time, which is what you should have been telling her since she was old enough to start having a decent grasp of receptive language.
If it does come up, if your little one sees someone with masculine-appearing features in traditionally feminine clothing and says (at the top of her lungs, at that piercing pitch children only hit when they’re saying something that makes you want to crawl into the toilet and die) “Why is that man wearing a dress?” what the heck do you say?
I’ll tell you. If that happens, then you go, like, “That’s a lady.”
And then if your kid is like, “That looks like a man,” then you go, “People look all different ways. She’s just trying to use the restroom, like you are. Go wash your hands. Go. Use soap. Not that much soap.” (Because that’s how bathroom conversations always end, I don’t care if there’s a band of Civil War reenacting drag queens in there, you’re going to say the soap thing. And also, you really don’t know, do you? Unless you’re the weirdo peeking up her skirt, you don’t know that that lady isn’t a biological woman with stronger features than most.)
I’m not saying not to have conversations about gender and sexuality with your kids. These are issues they’re going to face, if not personally, than as witnesses as their family and friends deal with them. But it’s ridiculous to think these conversations have to center around what people do in their private bedrooms or wardrobes. If you wouldn’t talk about the sex lives or genitalia of straight, cisgendered people, then it’s not appropriate conversation-period. As your child gets older, your conversations can become more comprehensive, but when your child is small, your answers about sexuality and gender should be as simple and gentle as conversations about love and death and anything else that you have a responsibility to explain. Don’t complicate it. Teach love, compassion, respect and inclusion, and your simple answers will grow into understanding soon enough.
a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
- conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence –Merriam Webster.
There seems to be some confusion lately about the importance of beliefs. We have people running around spouting all kinds of cruel, nasty, ugly, misinformed shit that makes no sense at all, and another group of people (often overlapping) running around spouting all kinds of shit about how it’s okay to spout the crazy shit because we have to respect everyone’s beliefs. It’s okay to want to marginalize and demonize and actually physically harm people because your beliefs say it’s okay, right?
Except the reality is, we don’t really have to respect anyone’s beliefs, unless by “respect” you mean “ignore,” because BELIEFS DON’T MATTER.
Beliefs are opinions. They’re feelings. They don’t make a darn bit of difference because they live inside your head and nobody else is in there but you. Now, beliefs can influence behavior, and that’s something you have to worry about.
For example, let’s say you believe you’re a rottweiler. You believe this because you like to try and chew on your feet, and you chased a cat once, and you have black hair and cute little brown eyebrows. Or just because someone told you when you were a kid that if you didn’t believe you were a rottweiler, you were going to burn up in a fiery pit for ever and ever and ever. It doesn’t matter why you believe it, you just do, and that’s cool. You can post pictures of your Kibbles n’ Bits dinner all over social media, people might think it’s kind of strange, but you’re not hurting anyone. If someone asks why you believe you’re a rottweiler, you can tell them, and share that belief with anyone you like. You can choose to wear a spiked collar because they look cool as shit on a rottweiler (and also on some people, although I haven’t worn mine in years). You can even bark when someone knocks on the door, if you want. You might scare away the pizza guy, but then again, he might just drop the box and run, and free pizza is awesome, even when you’re a dog.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
You believe that you’re a rottweiler, and you start trying to force restaurants to stop serving things like soysage souffle (soysage is a thing, I’m not even kidding) and serve Kibbles n’ Bits instead because Kibbles n’ Bits is the only good thing to eat. You want to close down the cathouses and terrariums and turn everything into a dog park because you’re a rottweiler and rottweilers are better than other animals. You start humping people’s legs and pissing on their tires and all of a sudden your beliefs are making you act batballs motherfucking crazy and it’s not about respecting your beliefs at all, it’s about get your red rocket off my leg, you fucking asshole.
And so now imagine that scenario applied to people. That’s what’s happening all over America right now: people are letting their beliefs, to which they are one hundred percent entitled, turn them into raging leg-humping tire-pissing jackholes, and we’re all sitting around going “no no, it’s just my leg, it’ll wash off, because we have to respect everyone’s beliefs.”
Respecting other people’s beliefs has not a single goddamn thing to do with letting people be mean to each other, letting them be racist or xenophobic or homophobic or any other fucking euphemism you want to use to sugarcoat the reality which is that some people are fucking mean-spirited jerks and you don’t get to use your beliefs to get away with that shit.
Mutual respect is always good. Being considerate of others is wonderful. We live in a huge, diverse community, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s lovely to be supportive and understanding of things that are important to the people around us, including their systems of belief. But it is just as important to make sure people know that it is not okay to use your beliefs as launchpads for your prejudice and hate.
Now go fetch my slippers and quit humping my leg, you fucking nut.
We are Pavlov’s dogs
brown is the new black,
haven’t you heard?
your God is ugly and your mama
dresses you funny
go back where you belong
if you can find it
crash-test dummies, toys
dolls for the fat and wealthy children
coddled by the idiots
that follow them
in a line
a chess game, red and blue
the pawns are blown away
and left for dead
I typed this on my iPhone
from the safety of my
So Donald Trump, right?
What a fucking asshole.
Apparently the financial bigwig (heh heh) recently took it upon himself to mock the appearance of a reporter with a physical disability. I haven’t said much about him or this particular incident up until now; half of me, when I heard about it, wanted to tie his wrinkly old nuts in a knot and toss him in a cage with a herd of horny badgers. The other half of me was just like, rolling my eyes and going, Eh, what do you expect from this idiot? His main selling point seems to be that he “speaks his mind.” Well yeah, so do lots of people, but when they start standing up in public and going “Hur hur hur look at me I’m so disabled, hahaha!” that’s when you grab crazy Uncle Donald by the arm, smack him in the back of the head, and drag him out of the room while simultaneously apologizing to everyone who witnessed his behavior and swearing to kill whoever left the liquor cabinet unlocked so ol’ Donald could get into it and make an ass of himself again.
Being a brazen jackass is not an admirable trait, people. This guy wouldn’t know class if it was delivered to him in a private jet and served to him straight off the fat ass of whichever Kardashian it is that has the famous fat ass. He’s a joke, and let’s try and keep that in mind when we’re getting upset about this latest idiotic move.
This is a guy who sounds like the Young Republican Frat Boy Book of Mad Libs being read by a broken See n’ Say. (Remember those?) He has a dead weasel stapled to his head for decoration and wants to brand everyone of a certain religion because fuck history and common sense and compassion, right? And he’s a notorious homophobe but still maintains a steamy sexual affair with the famous transsexual Ann Coulter, a cranky conservative television personality. The guy is not all there. He’s lost his marbles. When they handed out IQ tests, he pissed on his and cheered because it was negative. Motherfucker wants to act like that asshole in high school who talks about kids on the short bus; I don’t think the ignorant pickledick could spell short bus without a picture dictionary and a staff of interpreters. And he damn sure couldn’t demonstrate or define basic human concepts like kindness and empathy, not even with all the help in the world.
His opinion doesn’t mean shit.
He’s a dick, no doubt. He has some really, really, ugly ideas and behaviors. But like I always told my kids, if someone like that doesn’t think much of you, that says something really good about who you are.
And now, on top of everything else, he wants an apology for being called out for making fun of someone. Fucking seriously. Here’s your apology, Mr. Trump, on behalf of everyone you might have hurt by being such an obvious piece of inconsiderate shit: I’m sorry you have to use your money to buy companionship. I’m sorry your mommy didn’t hug you enough and didn’t teach you how to play nicely with other kids. I’m sorry that every time you open your mouth, what comes out is the verbal equivalent of noxious flatulence, and that you got put in your place by someone you clearly see as a lesser human being, and most of all I’m sorry that nobody has smacked you upside your fool head for being such an embarrassment to the human race.
In my nightmares, there are children playing in a field of tall grass, so tall that the only way I know the children are there is by the sound of their voices and the way the grass moves as they run. Then there are men, impossibly tall men, dressed all in camouflage, with guns strapped to their chests and their sides. They tower above the grass as if they’re on stilts. They look as if they weigh a thousand pounds. They are wearing high pointed hoods that cover their faces, like the KKK, but these too are camouflage. The grass and sky seem almost fluorescent against the dull shades of the uniforms. The men are walking through the field, swinging heavy sticks from side to side, like chasing rodents from the grain. When the children’s laughter stops, the soldiers’ begins.
I’m half-awake and dreaming this, vaguely aware of my husband’s hand moving to smooth my hair, hearing his voice from far away, but unable to wake up. It’s been like this since Paris happened. I wonder if Paris is going to become one of those ominous things we say, the meaning changed forever, like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor: no further explanation necessary.
Normally I use Facebook as kind of an escape, a place to share photos with friends and family, to share in their lives from a distance, to grumble about waking up early or the wheels falling off of my quirky old Beetle. I get angry and political sometimes, and when I see things that make me roll my eyes or groan in disgust, I remind myself why I don’t scroll through my newsfeed much. But after Paris, I had to stop checking in at all. Every time I logged in, there was more and more ugliness. I tried to counter it at first, tried sharing my own thoughts there and was met with the usual words of agreement from the people who usually agree with me, but this wasn’t one of those times I needed to just vent and get it out of my system. This was a kind of ugliness that I hadn’t seen before in such massive force. There were people everywhere, everywhere, directing their words of hate and violence toward people who were lost and suffering, not toward terrorists or soldiers but toward families, men and women who were trying to keep their children safe. They were throwing hate and promises of harm at children running away in fear. Children, like mine and yours and the ones next door and across the globe who didn’t have the geographical misfortune to be born inside a war zone. Children whose brown faces are streaked with tears and whose parents call their Abrahamic god by a different name than those who make the threats.
I think about the times that me and mine have been given refuge. I think about the times that people who didn’t have to help did, not because of shared religion or ethnicity but because of shared humanity. I think about the people who could look at a child, any child, anywhere, and see anything but promise. And then I just can’t think anymore. I can’t think, I can’t write, I can’t answer the phone, I get through the day one autopilot step at a time, only really coming to life when I’m teaching or with my children. Guilt for all the things I screwed up with my own kids has come back with a vengeance, and I turn those things over and over in my head with the images of the refugees, the smallest ones. I don’t understand how a parent can think about any child and want to turn them away. I don’t understand how a parent could want to teach their own children that that’s the right thing to do, at all.
I wrote this next bit a couple months ago, but it sums up how I feel now pretty well. Haven’t we all sought refuge from something, sometime?
This has been a trying week, with a lot of scary things happening close to home and around the world. I’ve been simultaneously trying to wrap my head around it all and to pretend that I don’t see the ugliness, and I keep coming back to this one thing that I simply cannot understand. With all the things that you can teach a child:
To paint a picture
To hula hoop
To identify birds by their songs
To play an instrument
To speak another language
To write in cursive
To grow tomatoes
To tie their shoes
To write their name
To play hopscotch
-or Go Fish
-or Mario Kart
To bake a cake
To care for a pet
To wash their hands
To tell a joke
To practice gratitude
Why would anyone want to teach them how to hate?