anger avalanche

          In 1983, I received orders.  I was to be stationed the entire next year in Korea, separated from my wife and infant son.  We decided to find an apartment for the two of them, where she could work during my year overseas.  Fortuitously (I thought when I learned of it) my step-father and mother were planning a two-week vacation without my 15 year-old half-sister (because she'd be in school).  I asked my mother if my immediate family could stay in the guest room during their vacation, in order to apartment hunt (I assumed my parents would welcome an adult and car for errands and emergencies).  

          "No," I was told. "Your sister has been promised unsupervised-use of the house.  Her boyfriend has a car."

          Wow.  Unexpected financial stress (paying for a motel in my hometown while four bedrooms sit empty in my family's house) combined with parental favoritism (always visible, rarely this overt) and jealousy (rarely an unsupervised hour when I was in high school...but she's permitted a fortnight) became anger.  Sticky anger.

          Over the next several years I didn't reply to the handful of letters sent by my mother or step-father—all I recall of them were that they ruminated on my lack of religion and never contained an apology.  During those years I divorced my first wife, my sons were adopted by her second husband, I married a Korean woman, and completed a few more overseas and stateside tours.  Eventually, I wrote my mother and step-father and asked to visit and introduce my wife.

          Using racist verbiage, the gist of my mother's answer:  'You are welcome.  She is not'.

          Which cased my anger to avalanche.

          Many years later, after realizing my mother's bigotry only explained the last few years of our estrangement, I chuckled over the memory of that long-forgotten sticky anger and pondered how those years may have been different if I hadn't stopped communicating with them.

          Had I only been angry because my immediate family members were never welcome in my parents home, or did I hold my anger because my mother and step-father never apologized...would one have occurred without the other?  If I'd never expressed anger and, therefore, never expected apologies, would those decades have been estrangement-less?

          Is the party who causes someone else to be angry always responsible for an apology?  Is someone else getting angry at you sufficient reason to be angry back?  If so, who should apologize first?  How do insincere apologies fit-in here?  Does just blurting the word 'sorry' (like a bed-wetting preschooler) ever suffice for anything more serious than accidentally stepping on someone's toes?  If not (most have a keen eye for hollow apologies) how does one clearly and concisely communicate one's contrition?       

          Over the decades I've come to realize that, for my mother, it's always others who are unreasonable and always those same others who express unwarranted anger—while she never has reason for apologies.

          Which has taught me I'm not so much my mother's son—I can, and do, say I'm sorry.

To sorrow I bade good-morrow, and thought to leave her far away behind; but cheerily, cheerily, she loves me dearly...she is so constant to me, and so kind. — John Keats

cept x cit


The excellency of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeable evaporate. — John Keats

Must a bellydancer driving a pink truck be female?

          Julie from Scientific Chick wrote an essay (A Pink Truck is Still a Truck) attempting to explain (to non-science people, like me) some recently published research which, as she put it, 'left her with more questions than she started with.'  She cites a study by a couple of University of Cambridge researcher's, which attempts to explain that, while very young children have no gender-based color preferences, little boys prefer to look at images of trucks cars and little girls prefer to look at images of dolls.

         Although the researcher's published abstract initially states: "...Girls looked at dolls significantly more than boys did and boys looked at cars significantly more than girls did, irrespective of color ... These outcomes did not vary with age..." they later contradict themselves by saying, "...both boys and girls preferred dolls to cars at age 12-months...".

          Which is probably why Scientific Chick decided to simplify things when she wrote, "...The researchers found that boys preferred cars and girls preferred dolls.  No big surprise there ... "  I thank Julie for eliminating the confusion, and although facts were left on the cutting room floor, it seems the researchers themselves drew first blood on those facts.

          But—more important—Julie's larger unanswered question:  Why do we buy pink for girls and blue for boys?

            A few years ago, Cecil Adam's The Straight Dope answered the question:  Was Pink Originally the Color for Boys and Blue for Girls?   Cecil answered in the affirmative, with "some thought so" and a "century ago some old magazine printed it," but his lengthy explanation still splashed solidly into the vague non-answer range of:  "Nobody really knows (where blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls comes from)".

          I propose the reason was—and still is—homophobia.  The pink-blue "switch" occurred following WWII when the Nazi's required homosexuals to wear a pink triangle sewn or pinned to their clothing. 

          I recall old pictures and paintings of children who (as detailed by the above Straight Dope answer) all wore white dresses.  Rare for The Straight Dope, they included a rhetorical question in the middle of their pink-or-blue article:
Why no attempt to discriminate further? ... Perhaps mothers decking out their little boys in dresses thought: They’ll get to be manly soon enough.
          There.  Right there.  Passive aggressive homophobia, written large in 2008, by Cecil Adams.  Unusual for The Straight Dope (unless...it's both a font of arcane trivia and, literally, staffed by straight dopes).

          Since I'm pointing out the prejudice and factlessness of others, I'll give-a-go at including some truthiness:  With zippers (1930), snaps (1885), and velcro (1955) decades or centuries away, can anyone use deductive reasoning to explain why mothers of yesteryear clothed their infants and toddlers in dresses and skirts regardless of gender?  If you are stumped because deductive reasoning is predominantly outsourced to some form of Wiki, consider the diaper and toilet-training in the button-n-pin era...without stretchy cloth or rubber pants or indoor plumbing.  If it was me, my entire brood of little shatters would have been restricted to the lawn from dawn to dusk; bare bottomed year-round, barefoot with skirts in the summer, leather footwear under long dresses in the snow.

          The researcher's concluded (and Julie summarized that conclusion in layman's terms) that they, "could not draw any conclusions on whether this behavior was learned or innate".

          This discourages me in an abject, why-am-I-not-surprised, kinda way.  And not just because their published results clearly suggests—at least to this layman—that the behavior of looking longer at cars (boys over 12 months) and at dolls (all girls) is learned.  Because when every year old infant prefers to look at dolls and then most of the boys between 18 to 24-months old changed their preference and looked longer at cars...that quacks and walks like a learned behavior duck.

          But the biggest reason I'm discouraged by all this, is because real doing-science researchers couldn't find a group of children, in the entire world, who hadn't already been gender-role tainted.  Because...there are no 12-24 month old children who've not already watched television or played with plastic never-important-toys?  No Nigerian or Brazilian or Alaskan or Native American or Aboriginal group—anywhere—which hadn't already tainted every one of their toddlers with Tonka-Barbie (I originally included "Amish", in this off-the-cuff list but deleted it during proofreading because 'homophobic Amish' is redundantly redundant.  Amish fathers probably spank their six-month old sons when they look at a broom).  Nor, most surprisingly, could these researchers locate any alt-lifestyle-neohippy-Americans who've intentionally raised their young progeny without exposure to TV, gender specific toys, or commercialized society.

          Oh and the A to my titular Q:  No, he could have once been a toddler who's preference for images of dolls, over cars, never flagged.  (I include this because, even I have gender role prejudices.)

Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterward carefully avoid. —  John Keats

if ya can't get a kylie minogue outta yer head


Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.  Therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; not to the sensual ear, but—more endeared—pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.  —  John Keats