So a while back, I read this article about Default Parents. You can read it at the link, if you haven’t already.
I’ll wait here.
Now before you get your underwear in a bunch, I believe she’s coming from a place of honesty. I don’t know of a mother among us who hasn’t had the kids come bother us while sleeping, showering, in the throne room, etc when Daddy could’ve just as easily answered their question. It’s a thing.
Currently, I am the default parent, and I stink at it. Here I’ve been trying to write and revise and keep Georgia Romance Writers on track and do things at the church while keeping up with kid activities like choir and softball and Beta Club and Art Club (which I forgot again this morning). I’ve already forgotten softball snack this week. I forgot to drive to the bus stop for the oldest one day. (I’m not concerned about that one–walking a quarter of a mile in the spring sunshine got him some vitamin D and should help build his character, no?) I swear, my kids need their own secretary. And I don’t even run them around like many parents do.
The hubs is off bringing home the bacon, which is good because I sure as heck am not currently bringing much of anything in. These are the sacrifices we make for my living the dream. I wish I handled it all better, but I have to tell you my brain is a beehive of noise and ideas and obligations and worries and doubts. It probably doesn’t help that I spent a great deal of my life self-sufficient, and I have to work hard to get beyond that self-absorption so common to an only child. Often I think to myself, “Dude, figure it out. I could already do XXX by your age.”
So, I’m going to confess to you that the Mister is just as much the default parent as I am, if not more so. Let me give you some examples:
- when both kids were newborns he got up at every feeding and changed the baby then handed him/her to me to expedite the nighttime feeding process
- when I was teaching he saw that it was stressing me out to get the kids to his parents and he took over that part of the morning’s duties
- we’ve switched off on bill paying many times depending on who had the lower workload
- we’ve switched off on who took the kids to the doctor depending on who had the most flexible job at that moment in time
- when I have a writing conference, he takes the kids
- when I had to go out of town to look after a friend for a month, he took over everything and handled it beautifully
- and I could keep going….I’ve been the main bread winner at times. He’s been the main bread winner at others. If there’s something I need to do, he makes it happen just as he knows I’ll hold down the fort when he has to travel out of town or do the all the things.
Now, there are two important things you have to know about our arrangement: One, we do have a substantial amount of help from both sets of grandparents. I do not know how those of you who live so far from your parents make it. Two, if you need help, you gotta ask. I’m curious if the author of the default parent piece has seen greater participation from her husband. Did he even know she felt this way? I know it’s satire, but methinks a bit of her bitter slip was showing. AND I DON’T BLAME HER. She is exhausted…..so express your concerns. Say, “These things are really frustrating me. We need to find a better way.”
(Steels herself for talk from husband about all the things that are frustrating him and how we need to find a better way. Resolves to take up yoga to corral wayward thoughts and read book on how to make kids more accountable for their part in this messy house.)
Dude, I don’t know if she does what I do, but this creativity business is hard to manage. There are constant interruptions, which wouldn’t be so bad if I were doing something I could put down and then come right back and pick up. I have been known to lose entire trains of thought over cat crashes, Jehovah’s Witnesses, phone calls, an endless parade of dental/doctor/optometrist appointments, school activities I’m supposed to attend…you name it. I’m trying to learn to guard my time, but it’s tough. I am the closest parent with the most flexible schedule, and, as a woman, society has tried its best to teach me not to stand up for myself, to be polite, to not rock the boat, to not ask for help.
Eh, screw that. I’m getting better.
In the meantime, I leave you to Ryan and Sally’s Patented Approach to Parenting as presented by the New Age Outlaws. Now, we do tame down some of the more, er, less polite aspects of their speech, but you have to admit that it helps to approach a misbehaving child together, as a united front while one of you yells, “Oh, you didn’t know? Your a$$ better call somebody…..” (Here’s a tamer version–plus I like how they’re doing it all middle aged and taking it in stride.)
P.S. It’s also super handy to have someone to tag into the ring of life when you’ve just had the snot kicked out of you. Thanks, Ryan, for always reaching out to tag right in.
P.P.S. I don’t want to hear any mess about how that woman doesn’t love her kids. She does. And to love her kids she shouldn’t be expected to give up her own identity.
I’m gearing up for the official Happy Hour Choir launch party–complete with after party. I’ve always wanted one of those. If you preorder a copy of my book from Cat Blanco over at the Marietta Book Exchange, you will receive a free pint glass at said launch party. Here’s a handy-dandy infographic to help you shop local:
Oh, but you can also enter to win a copy of The Happy Hour Choir over at the Reads of Good.
And do please ask me questions on Goodreads. I’ll answer anything as long as it is polite. You never know–I might pick one of your questions for the FAQs or IFAQs (INfrequently Asked Questions) website section I’m creating
Kensington tells me that special things will be unlocked as I gain more peoples entering that contest or adding the book to their “want to read” virtual pile. If you want to follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook you can do that at the aforementioned links. I think you should because I almost stepped into cat barf today and the post office thinks my house is vacant. I’m needing a little more validation than usual thanks to these two things. I know, I know–I’m not really a cat owner until I step into the cat barf while barefoot. I’ll get there. I’m promise.
Also, I may or may not have a burning desire to holler “Achievement unlocked!” each time I hit another milestone. Maybe I’ll make a meme. Yeah, that sounds like fun.
So yesterday I went to the Cobb County Library Foundation to hear Joshilyn Jackson speak because hearing her speak is like going to writer church. Y’all. They let me sit at her table. Like I was a real writer or something. And she was kind enough to give me a shout out! Good day yesterday. Today? Cat barf, laundry, and convincing the post office I exist.
Anyhoo, that’s all the news that is news from La Casa Kilpatrick. Come back next week when I talk about how parenting is like being WWE tag team partners.
Yes. Green Beer. And shenanigans.
When Trish Milburn asked me if I would like to contribute to another micro story collection, I was all about it. I had the hardest time thinking of a prequel for The Happy Hour Choir. Obviously I didn’t want to spoil a book that was coming out the following month. (April 28, at fine retailers everywhere! Call Cat Blanco and preorder to get a commemorative pint glass and other swag!)
I think I just devolved into an infomercial. Sorry about that.
Anyhoo, I was tasked with writing a Saint Patrick’s Day story. Alas, the ideas did not flow freely. Finally, Gretchen, the reigning expert on shenanigans, gave me a couple of good ideas. Tanya was mainly grossed out by the concept of green beer, but I left it as a nod to my mom and our first trip to Boston. We landed on a Saint Patrick’s Day. Green beer and shenanigans abounded.
So back to the story, I realized you can’t just pour green food coloring into beer. I mean, at least not according to the eHow article I read on the subject. (Which makes me an expert, right?) That got me to thinking about what Bill, my fictional bartender, would do. He primarily serves long necks. Then I remembered how he served wine in a certain signature red cup. That reminded me of the song by Toby Keith, and the rest is history.
FREE history. You can hop on over to Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, and possibly some other venues to get your FREE copy of Tiny Treats 2. I’m not the biggest Toby Keith fan, and the video isn’t my favorite. That said, the song itself amuses the heck out of me, and I can’t wait for you to find out how it figures into Beulah’s shenanigans.
Hope on over and take a peek. Remember: honest reviews mean a star in your crown! And stay tuned because you may very well get an opportunity to win your own Red Solo Cup. Oh, and here’s the song if you haven’t heard it.
Okay, I lied. I’m not quite done with the overexposed topic of 50 Shades of Grey. When I blogged about why I’m not going to see 50 Shades of Grey and why I’m heartily sick of hearing about it, I was coming from a very personal place. Now I’m a little concerned about the bashing. I tried to express the idea that it’s not my bag and that the story is problematic. I was trying not to make those who like the books feel threatened. Maybe we’re all like the women in Margaret Atwood’s “Rape Fantasies.”
So, wanna know what I really, really hate about 50 Shades of Grey? Now I can’t use the idiomatic expression “shades of gray” without people snickering. We live in a world that is about a billion shades of gray. Since the book has taken that phrase away from me, I’m going to revert to my Western Civ professor’s expression, the complex middle ground.
Human nature makes us want to live in a world of black and white. Human nature makes us want to see only right and wrong. Human nature makes us. . . judgy. Sometimes I’m judgy. I’m sorry for that. I have opinions, and I tend to share them even when I shouldn’t. I think I was meant to be a nineteenth century essayist, but here I am in this brave new world instead.
And this world, like all of the worlds before it, is complex.
So here’s what’s bugging me about the 50 Shades backlash:
We can’t make women’s sexuality a punch line. Look, we need to discuss the elements of the book that I mentioned on Wednesday. We can’t, however, afford to make fun of women’s sexuality as a whole. I’m thinking a large part of the popularity of 50 Shades is that, once it hit the Target shelves, it had a certain amount of legitimacy. That legitimacy allowed some women who’d never been “allowed” to explore their sexual fantasies a chance to do so. I mean, it’s in Target, how bad can it be, right? Also, ask any writer associated with the romance industry and chances are he or she had already read something much kinkier before that book came out. It’s pretty tame as erotica goes. Because it’s relatively tame that made it accessible. At the very least a bunch of women who may have felt repressed before got an opportunity to explore their sexuality. And they have that right. No one really ridicules guys for reading Playboy; it’s almost expected with filching copies being a sort of rite of passage. Guess what? Women should have that same right. Many of us used to filch Harlequins, and I dare us all not to be ashamed about it.
Take the Christianity right on out of this. People, you gotta stop with the “You’re going to hell if you. . . .”
That’s not our call. Besides, do you realize how much sex is in the Bible? Song of Solomon is devoted to the subject. As Tiffany Reisz has a character point out in her book, The Saint, Esther basically “auditions” for the role of queen—and I’m not talking about a song and dance number. Rahab was a prostitute. Dinah was raped. Leah took part in an elaborate marriage deception. The woman at the well had committed adultery. Both Tamar and Ruth are included in the lineage of Jesus, and they had some history, let me tell you. Tamar had to trick her father-in-law into sleeping with her in order to get a son, and she was congratulated on her cunning and resourcefulness. That story also gave us the expression Onanism. Fun times. Google it if you don’t know it. And Ruth? Loyal Ruth stuck with her mother-in-law and, unless my eyes deceived me, basically seduced Boaz based on her mother-in-law’s recommendation. And those are just the stories that I can come up with on the top of my head!
One thing that bugs me is that I’ve seen people latch on to 50 Shades as a reason not to read any books with any sexytimes. Look, sexytimes are an important aspect of being human. The best romance novels, in my opinion, teach a woman that a) she’s worth a special someone, b) it’s okay for her to want to engage in sexyimes, c) she deserves a partner who’s also invested in her pleasure, and d) she deserves to be treated with respect. Now, I could argue—and have—that 50 Shades doesn’t meet those criteria, but if criticizing it means yet another step backward for the industry as a whole, then we need to chill. (Also my apologies for the liberal and sophomoric overuse of the word “sexytimes.” See small town history below.)
Speaking of the industry, a lot of other writers made some money, too. Obviously there’s a market for erotica. Thanks to the popularity of 50 Shades, some other authors either got a job or made significantly more money than they would have otherwise. Also, a lot of readers used 50 Shades as a springboard to find books they wouldn’t have been able to find just a few years ago. I can think of at least four authors–really good authors–I would’ve never read if erotica hadn’t had such a spotlight. Moreover, if the movie does well, maybe some other romance novels will find adaptation on the big screen. More work for women authors who are writing stories about women? Yes, please.
Finally, we’ve got to learn to agree to disagree without tearing each other down. When I give my opinion, I’m coming from a place where something’s eating at me, and I have to get it out of my system. I always welcome well thought out, respectful disagreement. For example, a friend once said, “You have a real chip on your shoulder where rich people are concerned.” Okay, so at that point I had a few options: 1) vehemently disagree, 2) immediately cave in to the opposite POV, or 3) think about that criticism and reflect on it. Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder. I did not grow up rich. (I also most certainly did not grow up poor, though.) I do feel awkward in situations where caviar is involved. I do still hurt from the time I was rejected by a social sorority, most likely because neither my parents nor I had money or social status to offer. I have, immediately after marriage, lived hand to mouth and seen firsthand how easy it would be to slip into poverty. So, yes, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I’m trying to be better about it. I believe I said I’m sorry—if I didn’t, I’m saying I’m sorry now. But I say all of this to say that a certain level of disagreement is okay, even healthy. That’s one way in which we can learn from each other.
We can’t, however, learn from each other if we take some kind of morbid glee out of insulting each other or, even worse, “punishing” each other. Lisa Maxwell shared this article last night on Twitter about how what has happened to people like Justine Sacco, the woman whose joke in poor taste got her fired. That article should scare you senseless. There but for the grace of God goes every one of us who ever posts anything on social media. Should anyone’s entire life really be ruined for one tweet? Should anyone be condemned for either liking a movie or not liking a movie? I don’t think so. Maxwell compared the whole thing to “The Lottery,” a story she teaches and that we should all read.
Y’all, I promise I’m not trying to gleefully stone anyone.
So take a look at this meme I found on Twitter. This is an example of framing the argument in a way that alienates:
Trigger warning: So this post is going to cover my personal reasons for not being on board. If 50 Shades floats your boat, then carry on. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, however, I might hit a few nerves. I’m sorry.
There are many things in this world that annoy me: Adam Levine’s voice, Grey’s Anatomy, and the wrong pronoun after a preposition just to name a few. Then there are things I simply cannot stand: Paradise Lost, Blurred Lines, The Heart of Darkness, and Fifty Shades of Grey, to name a few. As it turns out, all of those things push my “treatment of women” button primarily, although I hate Heart of Darkness for oh so many reasons.
But I digress.
I’m not going to see Fifty Shades of Grey.
It’s the principle of the thing. I can’t support the movie because I hated, loathed, and despised the book even more than I hated, loathed, and despised Heart of Darkness. More than I hated Death Be Not Proud. More than I hated Flowers for Algernon or Paradise Lost. Even more than I hated the movie Sucker Punch or that damned Blurred Lines song.*
Now, I’m not saying you’re wrong if you like this book. Personal taste accounts for a lot in this world, and I can’t fault you for yours any more than, hopefully, you will blame me for mine. My father, a wise man, is rather fond of saying that “opinions are like a**holes; everyone’s got one.” Well, I’ve had all I can take. I’m going to express my opinion on this whole phenomenon. Here are the top 10 reasons I can’t stand Fifty Shades of Grey:
10. The writing is painful. I’m putting this one at the top because a) it’s obvious, yet b) it’s not like every bestseller out there is well written. Clearly, something about those characters really captured the imagination of a whole bunch of readers. My inner goddess, however, wanted to gag at all of the inner goddess references, and the prose was stilted and the dialogue meh. The best part of the whole book were the email exchanges. I’m mainly irritated they didn’t do more editing for typos and whatnot while they were changing names. I say this knowing full well there are typos somewhere in this post, but I promise you I did my due diligence—and that was without the help of three different editors.
9. Christian Grey is so not my idea of the perfect man. This may come as a shock to you, but I’ve been accused of writing men that are too beta. I know, right? Who’d have thunk it? But I prefer my men to be so manly that they are secure enough that they don’t have to be. . . manly. Men who are comfortable in who they are don’t require women to sign agreements that dictate all the things, and there’s a big difference between supporting someone and smothering them. Christian Grey could never be hot enough for me to tolerate his need for power and manipulation. Or maybe I just don’t like to be told what to do. It’s a possibility. I’m sure my mother can confirm or deny this. I’m hoping you won’t ask her.
8. So much of the book is just ridiculous. No way is Ana a hot-shot English
major without a computer. I had one back in 1993. Also? Girlfriend doesn’t just waltz into a job post-college. She’s supposed to work minimum wage or go be a teacher–didn’t she get the English Major memo? And I haven’t even got to the sex part! No way. I don’t buy how easily orgasmic she is after having never even had a Divinyls moment. Orgasms have to be her superpower. I know there’s a push for more female superheroes, but they had best not put her in the Avengers.
7. So preposterous that “ridiculous” gets two numbers. What about Mr. Grey? I suppose there are young, handsome billionaires out there, but he can fly a helicopter. He can play the piano. I’m guessing he could perform brain surgery or rocket science as long as he stays at a Holiday Inn Express the night before. What? Oh, yeah. He would never stay in a Holiday Inn Express.
6. Let’s get serious for a minute: this book is not a template for healthy relationships. I have all sorts of romance novels around here. I know that Her Majesty is going to start sneaking them someday. Heck, maybe The Hobbit will read one or two. No book stays in my house if it has a female character who’s being manipulated. We ladies have to fight so hard to keep guys from taking advantage of us** that I’m not going to allow such a book to be in my house. I mean, Grey wants to dictate where she goes, what she eats, when she exercises, what clothes she wears, and how she keeps her lady garden. No. No. No. No. I can’t type the word “No” enough. No. Dammit. No. I don’t care if my kids—AT AN APPROPRIATE AGE—read well-done sex scenes, especially not the ones in romance novels that, say, value the female experience. Being manipulative and stalkerish and handing someone a contract full of requirements, though? A whole world of no. To tell you the truth the article Why I Hate 50 Shades says this much more eloquently than I do.
5. This leads me to another thing I think the ladies need to know: you cannot “save” a man. You cannot “change” a man. Men, you can’t “save” a woman. You can’t “change” her, either. I’m beginning to think many women fantasize about “saving” a man and/or “changing” him, but I have yet to see a truly successful example of this in real life. Your significant other should make you want to work harder to be a better person, but that kind of change only comes from within. When it comes to a helpmeet, you don’t want a fixer-upper, people.
4. The tampon scene. Have I mentioned the tampon scene? I didn’t need to read about that. No amount of brain
bleach can ever take that away. Ew. No. Uh-uh.
3. The sex in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series is hotter and more emotionally resonant than the sex in this book–and it’s mainstream! Looking for stories with kink and BDSM? For heaven’s sake, try Tiffany Reisz or Delphine Dryden or any of a hundred other authors I haven’t discovered yet. Reading kink isn’t usually my thang, but there are plenty of people who can point you in the right direction.
2. So, I’m going to add something that may, again shock you (not): I’m not an expert on the subject, but I don’t even think 50 Shades is what BDSM is all about. (See article below) I’m supposed to believe that Christian Grey is into BDSM due to some harrowing childhood experiences, and Anna can “cure” him? No, I’m thinking BDSM is something that two people decide to do consensually and that doing so doesn’t necessarily mean they are “fifty shades of effed up.” That’s yet another reason why this book is not in my house: I don’t want any young impressionable minds reading this book and thinking kinky sex is something to be taken lightly. If my kids want to explore such things and educate themselves when they’re older, then I have no choice to be okay with it, but I wonder how many couples have hurt themselves either emotionally or physically by putting into practice something from this book. Or, and I think this is even more likely, I wonder how many couples have berated themselves for trying something in the book and not “succeeding” because it didn’t turn out the way it did for Anna and Christian. Just a world of no. Of course, I’m so vanilla you could probably make sugar cookies out of me, so what do I know?
1. Finally, there’s the question of what Fifty Shades of Grey does to romance and feminism. Well, it concerns me because I don’t think Ana ever reaches a point of true self-actualization. I confess I only read book one and the synopses for the next two books, but I don’t see that great an arc for her at all. That said, I don’t think the book necessarily indicates some decline of feminism because I’d like to think most of the ladies who like it understand it’s rooted in fantasy. I know a lot of these ladies. I think they have a pretty good grasp on reality. As for romance? Maybe? But it feels like a step backwards to the bodice rippers of old when heroines were enticed/manipulated into their sexuality instead of being allowed to discover it for themselves. Or those stories where the poor ingénue is so enamored of the hero’s wealth. The idea of being protected and cherished does get down to some primitive feminine need, but Christian Grey does it in such a smothering, manipulative, stalkerish way. I want to be cherished. I appreciate being protected. I won’t tolerate being smothered, manipulated, or isolated from my other family and friends–those are all signs of an insecure partner.
Maybe that sentiment is at the root of why I had such a violent reaction to the book and will not pay money in a theater to see the movie.*** I had a relationship where I was bullied and emotionally manipulated into things I didn’t want to do back when I was naïve. It wasn’t fun. Anna’s story reminds me of that time, and it’s not a place I want to visit ever again. No, thank you. I sure as hell don’t want my daughter to ever let any kind of insecurity or doubt land her in that kind of relationship. I constantly pray that she will somehow be smarter than me, more confident than me, or that she’ll trust me enough to ask for help should she run into a real life Christian Grey.
As for me? I’ll happily take my handsome non-billionaire husband who has a desire is to help me be successful
enough that he can be my cabana boy. He makes a Toyota Corolla and a ten dollar bottle of wine look good—and, with a partner like that, Christian Grey holds nothing of interest for me.
So that’s my two cents’ worth. By all means read what you want to read. I’m not much on censorship–especially not after the age of eighteen–so carry on. I just can’t stomach Fifty Shades of Grey for my own convoluted, sometimes irrational, and possibly hypocritical reasons. Maybe I just wanted any woman who feels as I do, to know we’re okay, too.
* “Cuz you’re a good girl (I know you want it)” Son, I will tell you what I want and when I want it, but I’m not going to have you indulging in some kind of Madonna/whore fantasy. Also, I may call myself the hottest bitch in this place, but that is not a way in which you may refer to me.
** This is not to diminish all of the men who are taken advantage of by women or by other men. Or women taken advantage of by other women. It happens. I don’t like it. I don’t care who you are, cut out the manipulation. I do think—and this is based primarily on anecdotal evidence and, yes, personal experience—that there are many more women who are coerced into sexual things by men, though. My college dorms were a minefield of women who’d been damaged in one way or another.
***I make no promises that I won’t, at some future date, watch it with Rifftrax and copious amounts of wine.
Resources (Wanna read some more?)
I know, I know! I know book one isn’t out yet, but I have a cover for book two. I’m fond of book two. In some ways it’s like my love letter to West Tennessee. Anyhoo, without further ado, I give you Bittersweet Creek. Oh, and should you be inclined, it is already up for preorder! (Say what?)