“Dancing with the Stars” is the greatest dance porn since “Dirty Dancing.”

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It’s a new season on Dancing With The Stars, which means I am once again obsessing over Cheryl Burke, Valentin Chmerkovsky, Mark Ballas and Karina Smirnoff. I’m watching fierce dance routines and booing the judges as if ballroom dance was a football game. The “stars” don’t matter to me (how many “reality stars” are there on TV?). I love the Pros, the dancers who train, teach, choreograph, plot and scheme their way to the mirror ball. Why do I love this world of spray tan, fake eyelashes and glitter so much? Because Dancing With The Stars is the greatest dance porn since Dirty Dancing, and I love dance porn.

I admit I’m a little embarrassed by my obsession. I’m an intellectual feminist with a Master’s Degree and a publishing company. But here I am, every tuesday morning (I don’t have cable, so I have to watch it online,) applauding Emma Slater’s creative choreography. In the middle of the night, I’m scouring Twitter for #DWTS comments. I become frustrated that I can’t vote because I’m watching it the day after, and I know exactly how it feels to have to TiVO a basketball game because you couldn’t watch it live, and then have someone tell you who won.

Dancing with the Stars is my escape from the chaotic, stressful, overly-serious world I live in. It feeds my inner child who longs to be a ballerina. When I was little, I was obsessed with ballet and longed to be a dancer more than anything in the world, but we lived in Lake County, California, far away from any dance classes. So I practiced plies’ in my room while studying a book on basic ballet positions, eventually screwing up my knees. The love of dance never left me and I was finally able to take my first class in college at the age of 19. I danced in a troupe for five years and loved every minute of it, even choreographing three productions. Later, I choreographed two shows for children. Yet again, I live in a town with limited dance opportunities, and being a mom keeps me home. I channel my longing to dance into my writing and publishing, but the desire has never left. I’m too old to be a ballerina, but I know I would be awesome at Tango. All I need is a teacher.

Every day at 4:30, I dance to electronic music on Pandora. Dancing is how I de-stress. At the end of my work day, right before I switch into my mommy day, I shake my ass as fast as I can in my kitchen. My daughter thinks I’m crazy, but sometimes she’ll join in. Occasionally, a Tango rhythm will come on and I’ll pretend that I’m dancing with Maksim Chmerkovsky (and that man can dance a tango!).

We forget to play when we grow up, and before we know it the burdens of life drag us down like quicksand. It seems we only remember to be silly when we’re on vacation, or drunk. Why not do something ridiculous every day, like Tweeting about #DWTS or dancing for 30 minutes in your kitchen? Ridiculous is good for you. Silly lightens the load. Just ask any 10 year old practicing ballet moves all alone in her room. What is better than dance to make you feel alive?

What is true in the American news?

Freedom of the press is in trouble in the United States. Thanks to pressure from the government to reveal sources and more reporters facing jail time, we have dropped to 46th in the world, according to a study by Reporters Without Borders. There are fewer newspapers and more journalists laid off. Television news is controlled by companies who answer more to advertisers than viewers. The internet is flooded with opinion makers and rumors. If the government controls the reporters and social media controls the headlines, how does anyone figure out what is true in the American news?

I admit that I’ve become part of the problem. On Facebook, I’ll see an article with an inflammatory headline, like “Fukushima radiation will kill all the fish by 2015.” I’ll click the link, read a little, start to get angry, and then share that link with all my friends because I think it’s that important. Later, after I’ve calmed down enough to think about what I just posted, I’ll question the validity of the article. Who actually wrote it? Where did that person get their facts? Were there any actual facts written, or was it just opinion? But it’s too late. I already shared, starting a heated discussion amongst my friends about how bad Fukushima is and how we’re all going to die from radiation poisoning. Four of my friends shared it with their friends. The dialogue will continue, even though there might be only a shred of real information in the article.

Who has time to evaluate every report that races through Facebook? And even when we find the time, how can we figure out what is true, and what is not? How do we evaluate the magnitude of the information we access every day?

The internet has increased our need for journalists, people who are trained to search out the truth and share it with us. We need people we can trust to report on events. And we need our press to be free from government pressure and corporate control. How else will we understand what is happening in the world and how it truly effects us? Freedom of the press is written into our constitution; we should be furious that we’re not in the top ten, or even the top twenty (although we’re ranked higher than Italy, so I guess we can brag about that). We have incredible access to information, but does it matter if our right to understand that information is impeded?

I will try very hard not to spread rumor and opinion as news online. Unfortunately that means I’ll probably spread more jokes and pictures of cats. I’m afraid that might be another trap; in fear of sharing false information, I may stop spreading information at all.

Journalists! We need you!

 

 

Night Clubs and Friendship

Have you ever been to a fancy nightclub, the kind you see on TV filled with young and beautiful people dancing to electronic music, overseen by a DJ who is worshipped by the crowd? I have. I hated it.

To be fair, I probably hated it because I was there just three weeks after I’d been dosed, so my tolerance for drunk, hip people was low. And it really wasn’t my scene; what the hell was this middle aged babe doing in a club filled beyond capacity with gorgeous 22 year olds? I was invited by a much younger friend who has spent a lot of time dancing to ear shattering music under black lights. I love new experiences, so I decided to go for the adventure. When I was younger, I was too broke to go out, especially to a dance club to hear a new DJ. So there I was, wandering a brand new club in high heels and a woman’s tuxedo, feeling 80 years old.

The club was a maze of dance floors with a raised area for the DJ to create his magic. A long, well lit bar crammed with people screaming for drinks was the most visible landmark. The rest of the club was dark, illuminated only by hundreds of multi-colored lights that swam across the ceiling, the floor and the crowd in time to the music. The girls wore the uniform of the hip and cool: clinging short dresses and platform high heels. The boys dressed with more variety, but every one looked rich. Several Go-Go dancers performed on blocks, waving light wands that changed color.  The moment you stepped into the room, you were punched in the chest with music and confused by the swirl of movement.

As we shoved our way through the crowd (it was too crowded to actually dance), I saw roped off VIP areas adorned with scantily clad young women. Many were passed out on velvet couches. People kept dancing and drinking, ignoring the girls who were so messed up they could actually sleep despite the primal thump of the drum machine. Why didn’t anyone help them? One girl had her short sequined dress pulled up over her hips, exposing her tiny lace panties. Why didn’t someone pull her skirt back down? Where were her friends? Her date? Her mother?

That’s when I knew I was waaaaaaaay too old for an ultra hip dance club. Every one of these girls could by my daughter. That boy with his arm slung over the shoulder of that girl wobbling on too high heels could be my son. If he were, I’d kick his butt for not taking better care of his date.

Later, when I asked my friend why no one helped those passed out girls, she just laughed. Why should they? It’s every girl for herself in a club like that and if you’re dumb enough to get that messed up, you’re on your own.

I felt so sorry for my young friend. When I go out with friends, I know they all have my back. On the night I got dosed, three friends came to my rescue; no one left me lying on the floor. My young friend has actually been left on a couch, passed out and unable to defend herself, while her friends laughed at her. When she went out with me and my friends, she was shocked by how much we cared for each other. Her feet hurt and a friend of mine helped her. I drank too much, and another friend held my arm so I wouldn’t fall down. If anyone had thrown up that night, at least two friends would have come to the rescue. That’s just what friends do.

When I was young, I had wanted to go to clubs and party and dance all night, but I had to work to pay for college. I envied the cool crowd with their gorgeous clothes and spending money. But maybe that world wasn’t so cool. The people are lovely, the music intense, the decor beautiful, but the attitude is cutthroat. Going to a club is like playing a vicious game of King of the Mountain with the winner being whoever is most beautiful and can drink the most without falling down.

I think I’ll hang out with friends my own age, preferably in the wine bar like the middle aged chick I am. Being young and hip is far too dangerous.

The rules to keep from getting dosed in a bar

To the man who dosed me in a bar,

You are a prick. I hope someone doses you sometime so you can understand how terrifying the experience is. And then I hope someone drags you out to the street by your cock so everyone can laugh at you while you freak out in the cold. Hopefully you’ll get hit by a car.

Sincerely,

The woman you dosed two Sundays ago. 

While visiting friends in San Francisco, I was dosed by a stranger in a bar. I was out having drinks, celebrating a few days of relaxation away from the stress of life at home. My husband sat only two bar stools away from me. And while no one was looking, a man dropped a drug into my gin and tonic.

He slid against me and leaned on the bar, as if wanting to order a drink, and when I saw him every alarm bell in my body rang. His pupils were so dilated he didn’t look human anymore and he didn’t blink. He just stared at me, then he stroked my thigh. Shoving his hand away, I glared into those frightening eyes and said, “No.” He smiled. I turned my  back to him so I continue the conversation about Prague with the gentleman on my left, a funny guy who was friends with the man my husband was talking to. I sipped my drink, chatted more, and then realized that I was touching the funny guy’s bare arm. He was so warm… so soft… leaning against him I felt his t-shirt against my chest. Suddenly, he was gone. I gripped the bar and stared at the people around me. Where was my husband? The scary man was still standing beside me, smiling.

“I’m so tired,” I said, and then lay my head on the bar. Someone’s hand reached inside my blouse and squeezed my right breast. I started to cry.

After that, everything is a blur, like a bad dream you can’t wake up from. You feel everything, every touch and sound and breath, but you can’t shake yourself awake, or make the fear go away. I remember being outside on the sidewalk with my friend holding me, but the scary man was still there. I told her he was touching me. Then I remember trying to walk back to the apartment where we were staying. I remember waking up because I was crying and screaming and I couldn’t stop. My husband was there but he couldn’t calm me down. Far away inside of me, I knew I needed to stop, but I kept screaming. Suddenly I was up and screaming louder, accusing my husband of letting a strange man touch me. And then my husband was gone but my friends were there and one friend took me to the hospital. The screaming finally stopped, but not the terror.

In the morning, I was calm and well enough to go home, so the hospital released me, saying I was exhausted and had experienced a break down due to alcohol. My husband picked me up at the ER and we drove home, silent and shaken from a night of chaos. What had happened? Why had I lost it so badly? Did I just have a nervous breakdown?

My daughter has a disability and is medically fragile, so every day is stressful. Add to that losing my job, marriage trouble and constant pain from a neck injury, and it’s no wonder I’m prone to hysterical weeping, especially if I drink too much. But this was different. This time when I cried, I was out of my head and ready to kill myself.

The next day, I explained to my daughter’s aid what had happened and she said, “You were dosed.”

“What? How? What are you talking about?”

“You were dosed. Someone slipped something in your drink when you weren’t looking. Probably that creepy guy who was grabbing you. You have all the classic signs.”

“But… I’m too old to be dosed. I could be that guy’s mom.”

She laughed. “No your not. You’re hot. And besides, you gave him the opportunity. Other people probably had their drink covered.”

And then she told me about the times she’d been dosed, how her friends had been dosed, what to do if you get dosed, and how to prevent it from happening.

But I still couldn’t believe it. Why would anyone want to dose me? I’m not a naive 21 year old girl; I’m an intelligent, savvy, full grown woman who doesn’t take shit from men. They tested me for drugs in the hospital and they didn’t find anything. The idea was crazy!

When I told the story to my friends under age 35, they all said, “Sounds like you were dosed.” I told my friends over age 35 that people thought I’d been drugged, and they all said, “That makes a lot of sense.” I went online and read about rape-drugs and side effects and how to protect yourself from being drugged, and even though my brain just couldn’t accept that someone would do it, I realized my friends were right: I had been drugged by the creepy guy.

The most disturbing thing about this, other than the experience itself, is how nonchalant my friends under age 35 are about getting dosed. Being dosed in a bar is as ordinary an event as getting a phone number from someone you meet there. Since it happens so often, everyone knows how to protect themselves. Unfortunately, I’m 46 and don’t go to bars very often, so no one taught me the rules. But here’s what I know now.

The Rules to keep from getting dosed in a bar.

  1. Always keep control of your drink. Don’t leave it on the bar, or on the table, at any time. If you have to pee, take your drink with you! Want to dance? Finish your drink first.
  2. If you do set your drink on the bar or a table, cover it with a plastic cup or the coasters bars give you. That makes it harder for someone to slip something into it.
  3. Never take a sip of a drink from someone, even someone you know. Do not share drinks.
  4. If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar. Don’t drink anything that has left your sight. Someone hands you a beer? Only drink it if it is still unopened.
  5. Do no go to bars alone. If you’re on a date, reread all the rules and FOLLOW THEM.

The other thing I discovered is that hospitals do not routinely test for “date-rape” drugs. And many of the drugs pass through your system so quickly even if they do test, they might not find anything. The hospital I went to tested my alcohol level and checked for standard recreational drugs, like cocaine and pot, not Ketamine or GHB.

It’s a bizarre comfort to know I was drugged and didn’t just lose my mind one night. However, it is frightening to realize how violated I was and I’m thankful my friends were there to help me. What would have happened if I’d been alone?

For more info, here are some links I found:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_rape_drug

http://www.medicinenet.com/date_rape_drugs/article.htm

http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/rohypnol-roofie-and-rape

http://teenadvice.about.com/library/weekly/aa062502a.htm

Forget Resolutions: What do you want to learn in 2014?

Have you ever looked up the definition of the word “resolution”?

Resolution: The act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the act of resolving something (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Did you know the word is a noun, not a verb?

How many resolutions do you make each year, and how many are you able to keep?

I stopped making resolutions several years ago because I got tired of setting myself up for failure. I kept promising myself that I would learn to cook and eat better, but so far all I’ve learned to cook is steak. Not veggies or quinoa or curry or even meatloaf, just steak. I gave up promising to get in better shape or be more organized because by March my running shoes were still clean and my date book was empty. But now I wonder if I was making resolutions wrong. If a resolution is a noun and not a verb, then maybe we need to think of a resolution as a tangible thing and not as a goal. Maybe a resolution is more of a transformation than simply the number of hours you log at the gym.

Instead of making resolutions that are about losing weight or earning money, what if we ask ourselves, “What do I want to learn this year?”

I want to learn to be kinder to myself, so I will look for ways to do that. Perhaps I will stick with meditation or read more books or spend more time with friends. Perhaps I’ll do all of that. Perhaps eating more veggies will make my body happier. The point is, rather than beating myself up for not meditating four times a week and eating more broccoli, I will praise myself for all the ways I try to treat myself gently. Rather than telling myself I’m a loser for not getting to the gym, I will tell myself that going to the gym is important because it makes my body happier.

Resolutions are a tool to help you, not hurt you. If resolutions make you feel guilty/angry/lazy/stupid, then they are worthless. Forget resolutions. Think deeper and ask what you hope to learn in 2014. Then find the tools to help you. If the word “resolution” is a noun, why are we treating it like a big, angry, scary verb?

 

2013: Do you know anyone who didn’t have a difficult year?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a difficult year. Relationships shattered; jobs vanished; housing collapsed;  finances withered. Even health seemed difficult to maintain in 2013. What is it about this year that caused even the toughest amongst us to cry “Uncle!” Just like so many this year, everything in my life cracked. I lost my job, had surgery on my shoulder that didn’t resolve the pain, my daughter was ill, stress quadrupled, and my marriage suffered. At the end of this year, I feel emotionally and physically battered to hell, and I know damn well I’m not alone.

Is there a single person anywhere who doesn’t feel like 2013 was the equivalent of a treck to Mordor?

Why was 2013 so hard? Astrologers blame Mercury. Politicians blame the economy. Conservatives blame the collapse of social norms. Is it the hang-over from the “Great Recession”? The crazy weather? Toxic chemicals in our drinking water? Hormones in our food supply? What is causing so many of us to suffer?

The Winter Solstice is here, and this year it holds more meaning for me than in past years. The darkness feels stronger, literally and figuratively. The days are cold and the nights too long and all I want to do is curl up in my bed and sleep until Spring. Usually, I love the Winter, but this year it feels that it will never end, even though technically Winter hasn’t even started yet. If only the sun would shine warmer, then maybe we could all get past this miserable year and start again. We could go outside and breath in the Winter air and know that the sun’s warmth is closer, the daylight will lengthen, and soon it will be time to plant the garden again.

Feeling completely discouraged, I hung two strands of colorful lights on my house yesterday in honor of Solstice. You can’t light bonfires anymore (at least not in town), so holiday lights are the next best thing. When the sun set I plugged in my lights and instantly my home felt more cheerful. The shadows glowed with red, green, blue and yellow light, and suddenly I felt that although 2013 tried hard, I wasn’t beaten.

I have no idea if 2014 will be a “good” year, or not, and I’ve given up hoping it will be better. I just know that I will still love and fight and dream and cry and eventually find a small bit of peace. I know that I have more to learn and more to do. I know that there will always be struggle, and sometimes the struggle will be more than I can manage.  I’ll lose a few battles, but I will not give up the fight. I know that ultimately I will continue to love and be loved. I know joy will find me when I am saddest.

Time to plug in my holiday lights again. Happy Solstice, dear friends.

The Day of Giving: Are We Giving to the Right Places?

food pantry

image from Press Democrat, Health Report shows Lake County’s Death Rate Twice the National Average. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20130904/articles/130909815

The Day of Giving falls after the four days of extreme shopping, and though I’m happy there is a day acknowledging the need for charity, it angers me. I don’t have a problem with charity itself, I have a problem with where much of the charity goes. Too much charity in the United States feeds the myth that we are the country of wealth and there are no poor people here. Well, maybe there are a few, which is sad, but they are much better off than the poor starving children in Africa.

Bullshit.

First, let me acknowledge the fact that there are millions of people in the world who need help. Millions of people are starving, living in refuge camps, dying of treatable diseases, living in war zones… I am not negating any of that. People do indeed need our help, and I don’t want to take away any of the support given to desperate people in Africa and Asia. But just sending money “over there” without a thought to the needs of the hungry children in our own nation perpetuates the fantasy that there is enough support here and no one lives in squalor like they do in Afghanistan.

Again, Bullshit.

When I worked for Easter Seals in Lake County as an early interventionist, visiting families with young, special needs children (under 3), teaching them the skills needed to help their children thrive, I witnessed American poverty.  In the 2 years I did this work, I met many families living in trailers with broken windows and blue tarps covering their falling roofs, families who had to choose between heat and food, families in need of medical care without access to a doctor. There were large families who lived together, ten people crammed into a two bedroom house, because that was the only way they could afford housing. One little girl I worked with cried when her color crayons melted from the summer heat because she lived in a house without electricity; there was electricity available, but her family couldn’t pay the bill. Most of these families lived in the City of Clearlake, the largest city in Lake County (pop. 15,000), which still has dirt roads, poor sanitation, and mercury contaminated drinking water.

Whenever I hear someone living in beautiful Sonoma County talk about how sad it is that children are starving in Africa, I want to shout, “What about the children starving just one hour away from you?” To those who sponsor children in Mexico, is there a way to sponsor a child in Clearlake? Or Detroit? The schools could use new text books, heat, and repairs. The clinics could use more doctors. The roads could use pavement.

It is important that we try to help people in poverty all over the world. But when it’s time to send money overseas, lets not forget the hungry child who is probably living two blocks away from you.