Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Who Spilled the Beans?

I am a spineless jellyfish. There. I said it. For all my self-righteous indignation about "kids today," when a student says, "But doctor-so-and-so has extra credit questions on HER exam," I will inevitably sigh and say, "Okay, fine. I'll come up with something." So when I gave the second midterm last week, I added extra credit questions. I know. In college. All together now: I suck. At least I know this. This makes it even more significant that I'm not having children. Because that would go like this:

Child I don't have: Mom, Timmy and all the other kids are doing crack.
Me: Hmm. (Sigh.) Okay, I'll see what I can do. Where are they getting their crack, do you suppose?

I decided that if I was going to be handing out the crack (aka "extra credit") I could do my best to make it interesting. In chapter 9, we discuss not just the sexual positions best known to man (like the Flying Mango), but all kinds of sexual behavior, including (dare I say it? Joycelyn Elders said it and lost her job) masturbation. I often share a little anecdote with the class about the sin of Onan (I learned this from one of my favorite books - Don't Know Much About the Bible - slightly humiliating to buy as a former Catholic school student, but totally worth it. Great for keeping inappropriate sister on her toes, if nothing else). For those of you who were never Sunday school teachers, here's the short version:

Onan is the middle son of Judah (who is just one of the sons of Leah and Jacob - as in "Jacob, Jacob and Soooooons!" for you Broadway musical junkies). Er (nice name, no?) is Onan's older brother who marries Tamar. At some point in their Old Testament lives, Er does something bad (mixing plaids and stripes?) and God "strikes him dead." Judah (dear old Dad) then orders his next son, Onan, to sleep with his brother's widow (Tamar) because that's considered the nice brotherly thing to do at the time. Onan does NOT want to have to raise kids who are technically his brother's heirs (don't ask me - I don't get it either) so he "spills his seed" every time he goes to um, visit, his dead brother's wife. God is very displeased with him and strikes him dead. Kind of a high body count for that family.

Apparently, this little known story has served as justification for tormenting teenage boys for hundreds of years. But, according to Kenneth C. Davis, the author of the Don't Know Much . . . book, Onan's sin was actually coitus interruptus, not "self-abuse" as the little old Sunday school teachers liked to call it.

This story shocks and amazes students (esp. IBAS, since they believe their Biblical knowledge to far surpass mine and they have never heard this little tale) and it's a good opening for a conversation about many of society's "rules" about what is considered appropriate sexuality and what is considered inappropriate sexuality and the origins of these rules.

All this for a two-second bit about extra credit. Still with me? I decided that the extra credit question would be, "Who was Onan, and what was his sin?" A little "shout-out" as the kids would say, to the students who actually show up to class. So, I'm spending spring break like the rock star I am, doing Tequila shots and grading exams. Yesterday, I come across an exam of one of my favorite (yes, teachers have favorites - sorry to break it to you) female students and her response to "Who was Onan and what was his sin?"

Onan was some guy from the Bible and he spilled the beans.

Well, kind of. I gave her partial credit.

Friday, March 24, 2006


I'm conflicted. Very, very conflicted. Why would I be conflicted, you ask. After all, I am now
"officially" on spring break, with partying every night and blogging every day. But believe me, I have reason. Well, at least one reason- and it has to do with (shocking, I know!) inappropriate sister. And mocking her.

Is it wrong (morally, ethically, spiritually, legally, etc.) for me to post my students' inane ramblings for others to mock? Because I have got a PRICELESS one in my hot little hands. Okay, decision made. It's unethical for me to suffer alone. Let me set the stage for you:

One of the main assignments I give my students is "reactionary reviews." I bring in a variety of guest speakers and I also show what I hope are compelling and/or controversial videos at least once a week. Students must "react" in writing to a speaker or video on four different occasions. For every semester I teach, I find one more thing I guess I'm not clear on, and subsequently, every semester my syllabus grows longer and longer. At this moment, my syllabus is five pages with teeny, tiny Arial narrow font (pt. 9) and really itsy bitsy margins. Apparently, still not long enough. I dedicate about, oh, 3/4 of a page explaining the mysterious "reactionary review." In my mind, I could not be any more clear: 3 pages minimum, 5 pages maximum. Times New Roman 12 pt. font. 1" margins all around. Typed (of course) and double-spaced. First page-page and a half should be a summary of the speaker or video. No MORE than a page and a half should be the aforementioned summary. THEN, for the remaining pages, you are to write about your reaction to the speaker or video. Don't know what to write? Here are some questions and/or "talking points" to help you get started:
  • How did speaker/video make you feel?
  • Did you learn anything new from speaker/video?
  • If yes, what did you learn?
  • If no, where had you gained your previous information about this topic?
  • Was the previous information you had about the topic accurate?
  • Were any of your previous thoughts on the topic erroneous?
  • If yes, what was incorrect and what do you now know as "correct?"
  • Did the speaker/video change your opinion on the topic? If so, how was it changed?
  • If you were to describe this speaker/video/rodeo clown to a friend, what would you say about it?
  • Do you think other students in future iterations of this class should see the same speaker, etc.?
  • If yes, why? If no, why not?
Is everybody with me? This seems like a pretty straightforward and realistic assignment to me. But then again, I'm not 19. Last week, I had Dr. L., medical director of the student health center, come speak to the class about birth control. I love Dr. L. and so do the students. He is just fabulous. He knows about all the types of birth control, which companies manufacture them, how much each type costs at the health center, side effects, which ones students like the best, etc., etc., He also does see student patients. This is an important side note to be remembered for later.

That same day, I also showed what I consider to be a fascinating video (then again, my definition of fascinating is probably different than that of your average bird's): The History of the Pill. I saw it on PBS and knew I had to have it. I have watched it dozens of times now and I am still riveted by it.

I told my students that they were certainly welcome to "react" to Dr. L., but it would probably be easier for them to "react" to the pill video, since there was probably more information in it that was new to them. 99.9% of the students who wrote a reaction paper for that day wrote about The Pill. Except. You guessed it. Inappropriate sister.

Her paper started like this: "On Tuesday, the 12th of May (huh? What? Seriously, girl. It was the 14th of March. But I digress), Dr. L. came to our class to discuss birth control. He has been my gynecologist for the past four years and I love him. He's great. In order to demonstrate how great he is, I'm going to tell a story about my first gynecologist, who was not so great." At this point, I'm hoping she'll get sidetracked by a shiny object and I really, really won't have to read about her first visit to the OB/GYN. Don't I suffer enough as it is? Then:

"Because I am a virgin (OF COURSE YOU ARE! EVERYONE KNOWS THAT YOU ARE! THE PEOPLE IN THE CLASSROOM NEXT DOOR KNOW YOU ARE! Ahem. Sorry for shouting), I did not get my first pelvic exam until I was 20. I'm a virgin, hooray for me, yippee, yippee, hooray. Unfortunately, as a virgin, my first pelvic exam was extremely traumatic because of the female doctor I visited." Now, here is where I was conflicted about sharing a student's paper. And then I decided I wasn't conflicted anymore because it's just. too. crazy. to keep to myself: Ready, folks? Here we go. (And thanks in advance for not responding that I deserve to rot in hell) Verbatim:

"This environment scared me even more. She was cold and out of touch with the sensitivity that it takes to earn someone's trust with whom you are entering into such a vulnerable position. This is something I find quite common in the medical field of today because the motivations of people who enter the field are not out of a genuine concern for people but possibly out of a desire for wealth. Being involved in the alternative medicine scene makes this even more obvious. Dr. L. was very good at making me feel comfortable and explaining everything - another thing that many Doctors do not do. This allows one the courtesy of knowing what is going on with her own body. I had a nurse tell me one time not to question their procedures. I cried. I was so angry that someone would treat you as the lowly client who could not possibly understand what "we" do.

It is in this hostile atmosphere that the white witch proceeded to enter a cold hard utensil into my body and hurt me. I told her I was nervous and she showed no sign of trying to work with me nor telling me ahead of time what the procedure was going to feel like, why it was necessary, etc., The way she operated was like her husband had just left her for being a controlling ice queen and her children would no longer talk to her. She went to pull out the large metal fire poker and it had pinched something inside me that she was apparently trying to pull out for her cruelty trophy chamber even though I told her she was hurting me. I was breaking a cold hard hospital sweat trying to clench my legs together while in a dominatrix torture devise known as "stirrups" while at the same time sliding off the chair in fear and pain . . . she relented not."

As I said before: Oy. Yesterday was the second midterm and inappropriate sister was the last person to finish. When she turned in her exam, I handed her back her paper. She looked at me, smiled and asked, "Did you like my story?" What was I supposed to say? "Actually, it scared the shit out of me?" or "Is this your way of crying out for help and trying to tell me you were molested as a child?" or, as a colleague asked me when I showed her the paper, "Are you sure you're not suffering from dissociative disorder?" I lied. I said, "Wow. It sure was, um, creative!"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More fun than "Practice Writing Field Notes!"

And because Liberal Banana said so, I give you my short edition of Facts (Lite)

Four jobs you have had in your life:
"Sweeperette" at amusement park
"Gift Wrapper" at department store (only during holidays!)
"Retail whatever" and the list of stores, she is long! Conclusion: All retail will suck your soul right out of you!
"Salad/Pizza maker" at cute trendy restaurant. It was 15 years ago, and I'm still traumatized just thinking about it. I lasted less than 2 weeks!

Four movies you would watch over and over (in no specific order):
1. Can't Hardly Wait (excellent soundtrack and LOVE Seth Green!)
2. Chicago
3. Kramer vs. Kramer
4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Groundbreaking genius!)

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Gilmore Girls (I wish I invented it!)
2. Any "E! True Hollywood Story" - it's candy for your mind!
3. America's Next Top Model - it's a trainwreck you can't stop staring at!
4. What Not to Wear

Four websites I visit daily:
1. Yahoo! Mail/School mail
2. Alan Guttmacher Institute (I'm boring. And I always have to be armed with recent statistics to defend myself against inappropriate sister.)
3. Awful Plastic Surgery
4. Everyone on my blogroll (sorry, that's way more than 1)

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Wine
2. Champagne
3. Red Bull & Vodka
4. Coffee.
5. Beverages do so count as "food."

Four places I would rather be right now (I'm actually at home in my beautiful office that my husband and IKEA built for me, so I'm pretty happy, but if I have to write something else):
1. The Sheraton Moana Surfrider in Waikiki
2. The Plaza in NYC
3. Nordstrom's?
4. In Minneapolis with my extended family

Four things I always carry with me:
1. Burt's Bees Lip Balm. This cold climate is VERY drying!
2. Cell Phone (I swear, for emergency purposes only!)
3. Sunglasses (I guess I'm an optimist)
4. ReNu Rewetting Drops (Gosh, except for the cell phone, I sound like someone's grandmother!)

Your turn! (or not.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Occupational Hazards

Because this is the last week of classes before spring break (cue Homer Simpson "Woo-Hoo!"), I think it's okay if I list a few of the things I really, really don't like about my job. And honestly? Today, very few of them have to do with students. In no particular order:

Telling people I am a "sex educator" or that I "teach Human Sexuality at the college level." This is great. I can only imagine what strippers and hookers (oh - excuse me. The correct term we use in class is "sex workers,") feel like. Typically here is how the conversation goes:

Husband's-creepy-slightly-sexist-boss-type-person-at-holiday-party: So, what is it you do, little lady? J. said something about you being a professor?

Me: (stalling) Well, actually, no, I'm, ah, not a professor yet. Someday soon, though, I hope. Right now I'm a teaching fellow person-thing.

Creepy-sexist-boss: What subject do you teach?

Me: (covering mouth with hand and mumbling while desperately avoiding eye contact) Human sexuality.

CRS: Whoa-HO there! Wow! (Looks at J., does the nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing). Well, somebody's a LUCKY guy!!!! (Gives ME the visual once-over-up-and-down thing) Who knew! That's great. Hey! Larry! Come over here! J's wife teaches human sexuality! Can you believe that!

Me: (to husband) If you really love me, you will kill me now. Kill them first, though.

Here's another negative side effect of telling people what I do: Because they think I've heard it all, they assume I always want to hear everything. From everyone. All the time. Under any circumstances. Even if I've just met you. Especially if I've just met you. For example, just last month I was in one of my doc classes and my partner in a discussion activity said, "I've been hoping to work with you all semester."

Me: (Flattered, for a moment. Then I realized why she probably wanted to meet me.) Oh? That's so nice. I was hopin-

Classmate who resembles a 1950s librarian from my dad's yearbook: You know, when I drink more than two Scotch and sodas, I get really, really, um, you know, um amorous?

Me: Yep. Really? Great. Okay, so do you want to present our answers to the class or should I?

Classmate: Why, just last Friday night, I had two drinks and then I locked myself in our walk-in-closet.

Me: I used to have a walk-in-closet. I sure miss it. But we moved. The new closet's nice, though. No light in it. Boy, oh, boy, what I wouldn't give for a light in -

Classmate: So my husband wondered what I was doing and then? I just jumped out of the closet wearing high heels and a bustier and fishnet stockings and I even had my feather boa on. I just kept dancing around and around.

Me: (Realizing I probably sound like an 11-year-old kid with attention deficit disorder or worse, an adult with zero social skills) I love high heels. Love them. There was this one time, though, that I tripped and I was in a big hurry to get-

Classmate: So, do you find that when women drink more than two drinks they want to dress up and dance around?

Me: Um, what? Because really -- I don't -- you know -- like today? Aren't we going to present our answers to the rest of the class? (All the while thinking to myself, "How much will I have to drink to make sure that visual is PERMANENTLY removed from my brain?")

Interestingly, people also seem to think that teaching Human Sexuality gives one many, many superpowers. Like the ability to determine pregnancy based on visual assessment only. That one's pretty common with my female students and it usually goes like this:

Blonde undergraduate who looks like she's 12 stops me in hallway and says: Do you remember me? Last semester I was in D.'s class and you came in to substitute that one day when she was sick? And you talked about birth control?

Me: Sure. Right. Okay. (Thinking, "Is it bad that I'm thinking that this campus is filled with little blonde girls and you all look exactly the same to me?")

Blonde: Well, like, three weeks ago? My boyfriend? (Gotta love how undergraduates end every sentence? Like with a question mark?) Was visiting from out of town and we, like, had sex? Like a dozen times? But then his roommate's band was playing at a bar over at a college across the state so he had to leave. And then my roommate and I got Taco Bell? And I got really sick? And I think I forgot to take my pill once or twice? I took a pregnancy test and it came back negative, but I've also, like, put on, like, five pounds? And I'm really tired. Am I pregnant?

Me: Ah, well, I'm not a doctor or anything, and I think if you're worried, you should probably ge-

Blonde: But what about me getting sick? Do you think that getting sick from Taco Bell is the same as missing a pill? 'Cause didn't you say in class something about antibiotics or diarrhea or something -

Me: (Interrupting) You know, we really don't need to be talking about diarrhea in the middle of the hallway while using our outside voices. (Sighing, thinking I might as well just play along), what's your name again?

Blonde: Trina.

Me: Okay, Trina. How late is your period?

Blonde: What? It's not really late. I was just feeling fat and I'm really freaked out because my roommate's high school boyfriend's cousin's girlfriend had the same thing happen to her and she got pregnant!

Me: (Completely confused) She had sex 12 times in one day and then ate some Taco Bell and got sick?

Blonde: (Speaking slowly because she thinks I'm stupid) No! She had the stomach flu and puked for eight consecutive days and she was on the pill.

Me: Again, I'm not a doctor, but I don't really think that's quite the same.

Blonde: (Clearly exasperated by my stupidity) Okay, never mind. Forget it. I'll just go to the doctor then.

Me: I think that's a great idea.

And that folks, is my life!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday and Four

As I was getting ready for work today, I had Golden Girls (thank you,, for the image) on in the background. Somewhere between making my coffee (or a mess, as my husband would say) and choking down my 1/2 cup of Fiber One cereal (Okay. That stuff is the worst. Eating a bowl of sticks and twigs might be easier.), I had a thought: Of all the "hit shows" with women (don't ask me how I'm defining hit because I don't know - can you tell I'm in a doc program and always very defensive about not citing my sources?), just women, there were always four. Think about it:

  • Facts of Life (post-Molly Ringwald): Jo, Blair, Natalie and Tootie
  • Designing Women: 3 skinny women and Delta Burke.
  • Sex & the City: Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte
  • Little House on the Prairie (okay, this is one is a stretch, I agree): Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace.
  • This is also true in literature. Little Women? Four. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
  • And, of course, what makes it really true? (Thank you inappropriate sister school of logic!) My experience: Best college living experience? Four of us. (Shout out to the Front Quad, sis-tahs!)
Am I missing any? And, does anyone find this even remotely interesting? (I mean, besides me.)

EDITED to add: If you do find this remotely (no pun intended) interesting, perhaps you should check out this link. Now I have another "issue" to tackle. (By the way, I would never sue a cable company just because my favorite jeans no longer fit. Just wanted to be clear.)

Is This Even Funny?

Or have I just completely lost it?

On our college campus, and in our little college town, we have who we have come to call "The Driving Nun." She's very small, she drives a small blue car (an old Ford Escort, I think?) and she is perhaps the worst driver ever. And we all know about her because she has cut off everyone. In town. Or pulled out in front of you, or changed lanes suddenly and slammed on the brakes, or acted like she didn't see you in an attempt to run you off the road. Seriously. You name it, she's done it. (At least when it comes to traffic violations.)
So today, one of my colleagues had a run-in with the driving nun and she said, "I always give her a dirty look when I see her. Like she's really a nun. I don't know who she thinks she's kidding with that habitat." Get it? Habitat. Not habit. Funny? Or not so much? The fact that I live in a small college town that has a driving nun who is somewhat of a local celebrity is at least a little funny. I think. Also, my apologies for false advertising. Wednesday was not the day of many posts. Life happens, as it were.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Yesterday's Class or "Someone Get Me a Drink!"

Against my better judgment, I repeated a version of that exercise in class. We are on the “Parenting: Process and Choice” chapter after all. This time, I had the students brainstorm two columns: In one column, they were to list all the reasons to have children, and in the other, they were to list all the reasons to remain childfree. Then I separated them into two groups (by gender) and had them condense their lists. The men’s list? Hope I don’t offend the male readership, but, yikes. No wonder this country is going to hell in a big, giant, red-white-and-blue handbasket! If I was hoping for some improvement over years past, I was in for a big letdown. However, as Schietto Sister recently reminded me, I could use this activity not as an experiment in frustration for me, but in a “teachable moment” for them kind of way. As in, “Hey, everybody, tax breaks are not really the best reason to bring another human being into the world.” (One of the guys’ number one answers, by the way.)

The women’s “reasons for having children” list was topped with, “To make your marriage even happier.” So, I said, “Okay. Remember though, we learned from Chapter 12 that some research has shown that the majority of couples reported a large drop in levels of marital satisfaction after the first year of having a new baby at home.” And this is where inappropriate sister comes in. (Of course.) She is clearly suffering from what one of my colleagues calls the "egocentric fallacy." If it hasn't happened to her or someone she knows, it couldn't possibly be true. When I made the previous statement about children and their effect on marriage, her hand shoots up and she says, "I don't think that's true (as she starts almost EVERY comment.) I know plenty of couples who really, really love their kids, and it has really even strengthened their love and -" I cut her off - "Besides your own (I was dying to say
"clearly limited") personal experience, on what research or literature are you basing that statement?" She argues some statement I make (from our textbook, which she is obviously not reading) in every. Single. Class. On the chapter on attraction – we discussed the notion of “proximity breeds propinquity” and the old “absence makes the heart grow fonder” being something our grandmothers told us to make us feel better. Hand shoots up, “I really don’t see how that’s true. I mean, my boyfriend and I have a long distance relationship (that explains a lot to me), and I think about him ALL the time. I just love him so much and I can’t stop thinking about him and I can’t wait to see him and not have sex with him and blah, blah, blah.” It doesn’t matter what I say. And I would really like it, just once, if she could start a sentence with, “I disagree.” How about that? I mean, really. If you already KNOW everything I say is WRONG and “not true”, why are you taking my freaking class? Go teach at Vacation Bible School. I’m sure you’ll be a huge hit.

My colleagues remind me that this is "developmental" thing and it takes a while before a person becomes aware that other things can be generally true, even if it doesn't specifically apply to him or her. But come on! Inappropriate sister is a senior. Who is graduating in 2 months. Lord have mercy on her future boss (no pun intended!).

The Day of Many Posts

So many rants, so little time . . . Where to begin? What's wrong with today's "kids?" What happened in my class yesterday and who will come bail me out if inappropriate brother and sister mysteriously disappear because seriously? They are both driving me out of my freakin' mind. If inappropriate sister announces that she's a virgin and is "saving herself for marriage," one more time, I'm going to scream. We know. Trust me, We Know, already!!!! You've made it very clear. What happens after I get my horrendous public health midterm back tonight and I end up crying into my beer -wait, I mean, bran cereal? What I both love and hate about my job? Time will tell . . . I promised myself I would only do a "real" post after I completed my "chores." Back later today.
Sincerely yours, "Call me 'Yo Teacher Lady' one more time and I'll kick you into tomorrow"

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm Sensing a Theme Here

Part I: About kids, more kids, no kids and Tater Tot Casserole.
Last night on TLC was a show called "16 and Movin' In" and we watched it. And lo, we were sore afraid. It was about the wrongly-famous Duggar family, parents Jim Bob (of course. What else would his name be? Except maybe Cleetas) and Michelle and their sixteen little white religious people. And they have their own website. Be sure to click on "Favorite Recipes." The very first recipe listed is "Tater Tot Casserole." That must be Arkansas code for "craptastic."

Hey, everybody, do the words "socially irresponible" ring any bells? As you know, I am all for women controlling their own fertility. Every child a wanted child. Etc., But I don't know. Doesn't Zero Population Growth matter? Could it be that perhaps it's not all about you and your religion?

For example, check out these stats from The Population Connection:

  • "Americans are only 5% of the world's population, but we consume 25% of the world's resources
  • With the 6.1 billion people populating our earth—requiring more space, more food, more air, more water, more natural resources—we disrupt this balance, bringing serious threats to our planet–and the world’s resources. Resulting social and environmental problems reverberate around the world.
  • 1 U.S. citizen consumes about 30 times as much as a citizen of India. If everyone on earth lived like the average North American, it would require four more earths to provide all the material and energy."

Even more scary? Jim Bob wants to run for Senate. This should scare you a lot, especially if you go to their favorite links page. Check out the one that reads: CBH: Because God loves kids! It took me a minute to find out what CBH stood for - and just when I was sure it was short for "Christian Butt-hole" I found out that it formerly stood for "Children's Bible Hour." Good. Because I was worried. Sure don't want a Christian Butt-hole in the Senate! Just imagine what our country would be like if that happened!

Part 2: Reflections on Parenthood by College Students, or "I Have Seen the Future and It Scares the Shit out of Me."

My first semester teaching, I made the mistake of having my students complete this stupid little worksheet I found in the instructor's manual. The worksheet was about our chapter on birth control, parenthood etc., The textbook has a little short section called "Childless by Choice" and talks about the "new trend" of child-free and how more and more Americans are choosing this. So, the worksheet had questions like: "What are some good things about having children?" and "What are some good things about being child-free" and "What are some reasons people might have children/might remain child-free, etc." And I never repeated the assignment again because some things? I only need to read once. Now it's your turn. Here are a few of the most hair-raising quotes from my students in blue:

What are some potentially negative things about not having children?

  • No birthday parties/Christmas/trips to Disneyland/nothing to look forward to! I'm sorry. What?!?! I guess not carrying another human being in your uterus makes Christmas disappear. When do birthdays disappear, 'cause I can't wait for that one.
  • Nobody that's your blood, just like you who will always be with you and always understand you because they're from you. It won't be the same with friends or wives because they're not just like you. I was dying to write back a snarky comment like, "So, it's safe to assume that this is the kind of relationship you have with your parents? You're just like your dad and you understand him all the time. Right? Right??!?"
  • Nobody to take care of you when you're old. Ah, yes. What an excellent reason to bring another person into this world. Welcome to the planet, Baby Timmy. Now let's get started on those "Changing my Depends" lessons.
  • No one to carry on the family name. Interestingly, this was written only by the male students. And even more ironic, it was typically written by male students who had last names like Smith, Jones, Johnson, and Brown. Yeah, that would be a loss. The "Smith" name would die out. How unfortunate.
  • You can't not have children. We are here to continue the human race. That is what we were meant to do and why we are here. My husband argues that this is the only student who has a legitimate point.
  • No one to remember you when you're gone. Okay, on one hand, I get the sense of the fragility of the human condition, we are all mortal, etc., On the other hand, a good reason to bring another human being into the world? To remember you?!!? Why not start a scholarship fund with your name on it if that's your main reason for having kids. It's probably a hell of a lot cheaper than having kids, too.

What are some potentially good things about having children?

  • You can buy little girls the cutest outfits and dress them however you want (!!?!) This one scared the shit out of me. And it (of course) was only written by the female students. I wanted to write, "Why don't you start with one of those geese some people have on their front lawns and just buy outfits for that."
  • Everything is more fun with little kids around. Birthday parties, Halloween, etc., Boy, these college students sure haven't been to enough "adult" parties if you know what I mean. Give me a nice glass of wine and some Stilchester cheese and adult convesation over balloons, birthday cake and noisemakers almost any day. I should have written, "Everything is more fun? Try completing your tax return with a screaming toddler standing next to you."

What are some reasons people would not have children?

  • They only care about themselves and their careers. (This one was written by almost every student - all 60 of them. It made me feel really, really good.)
  • They want more money and stuff. I don't know what exactly this meant. We want more "money and stuff" or money AND stuff. Like shoes. And expensive moisturizer.
  • Because you just want to be successful in your career and don't care about anybody else. Yes. That's why I'm here with you minions of Satan. Because I don't care about anybody else. Oh - and P.S. - college teaching - not equal to crazy financial success.

Okay. I'm done. Rant over.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Just Call Me Ms. Manners

I read a lot of blogs by moms and a lot of blogs by women struggling with infertility. I am neither of these things, but these blogs are all well-written and compelling, so I come back again and again. A while back, Effected wrote about how one should or should not engage in a conversation with a pregnant woman. I was truly grateful for this PSA, and honestly I will admit that I have made many of these mistakes and will do my best to keep my big piehole shut the next time I meet a pregnant woman.

But Effected's post got me thinking . . . Perhaps some people could use a refresher course on how to speak politely to a "child-free" woman. Because I learned something immediately after I got married: People are not generally comfortable with women who do not have children. Wait - let me correct that - people are not generally comfortable with women who openly admit to not wanting children. I suppose it truly goes against the nature of the universe and that rocks people's worlds. The minute my husband and I got married, people started asking us when the kids were on the way. Seriously. I think my sister-in-law asked me that at my wedding reception. And the first 6 months after our wedding, I was stupid enough to tell them the truth. And those conversations typically went like this:

Not-so-innocent-bystander: So when are you and J. having kids?
Me: We're not.
NSIB: Oh, (smile, wink, nudge,) that will change.
Me: Um, I don't think so.
NSIB: Stranger things have happened . . . you'll see (last word said in a two syllable "I know something you don't know" sing-song that goes up an octave.)
Me (in all my ignorant stupidity and stubborn jackass tendency to try to let people know I'm right): Well, that would be impossible since J. had a vasectomy the month before we got married.
NSIB (Horrified shocked inhale): Wha, I - um - wha, wh-ho-woo-wh0. But WHY!??!
Me: A million reasons (thinking "none of which I feel like going into with you, nosy bastard.")
NSIB: But. Won't. You. Um, be sorry!?!?!?
Me: I'd rather be sorry for not having kids than sorry after I've brought another human being into the world.
NSIB: Harrumph. You'll be sorry.
Me: Okay.

Here are some of the other things people have said to me back when I was still stupid enough to be honest:
  • Aren't you afraid you'll miss out?
  • I can't believe that.
  • Who will take care of you when you're old?
  • What happens when you change your mind?
  • Vasectomies are reversible. People do it every day.
  • Are you sure you and J. don't want kids? (And to this, I'd love to answer: "Gosh, you know what? I've had 35 years to think about it and he's had 37 years to think about it, but now that you mention it, why, YES!!! Thank God you brought it up.")
  • Oh, because you hate kids. (No, I love kids. But thanks for demonizing me in your mind.)
  • Trust me, I felt the same way about kids (what way?) but it's different when they're your own.
  • Motherhood is the most amazing experience. You have no idea what you're missing out on (this said to me by my former hairdresser and one of the worst mothers I know.)
  • We'd love to have you over for dinner, but the kids will still be up. (Again, what do these people think of us? We're such loathsome creatures that we won't deign to set foot in the same room as a child? We're allergic to children? We hate them so much we might have to kill a child if we saw one cross our path?)

So, after six months of having my personal choices questioned, reviled and insulted by everyone from complete strangers to co-workers who I thought were my friends, to family members(!) I decided that the truth is overrated and if someone is going to start with me, then all bets are off. Here is how one of these conversations went recently:

Annoying-21-year-old-Ann Taylor co-worker: Do you and J. want kids?

Me: No.

A21: Why?

Me: J. has an undescended testicle and my uterus is hostile to his sperm.

A21: Oh. (Runs away scared.)

Oh - and if I really really don't like you, I'll get teary eyed and whisper something like, "It's. Just. Too-painful-for-me-to-talk-about." That shuts 'em up fast - I figure I might as well teach 'em a lesson and strike a blow for my new blog role models who are struggling with infertility. It's nobody's business, dammit!!!!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mad, Bad, and Sad

Now I'm really mad. Are they fucking kidding with this one!? Boston Catholic Charities is no longer providing adoption services because a gay person might adopt a baby. Okay, things cannot go this way (oh, I'm sorry, I guess they already have.) First, we're going to make abortion illegal in every state in this pathetic hopeless country, then many of the major adoption service providers are going to close up shop. Now then, tell me, exactly what a teenage girl who is unfortunately knocked up to do? So many of the abortion foes like to say, "Well, there's always adoption." And you know what? I don't think adoption is a bad thing. I think it can be a legitimate option for many people. But I never thought it should be the only option and now maybe not even one at all? And perhaps my logic isn't the best, but they're worried that gay people might not make the best parents? Let's see, who should be given the Year's Worst Parent Award? Not gays - at least not this year.

Oh, and for those who don't study unplanned pregnancies for a living, here's a little stat for you from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (and it's not just more liberals spinning stats to go their way- the CDC says the same thing): Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Half. Fifty percent, folks. That's a hell of a lot of unwanted children being brought into this already overcrowded world.

I better watch some really crappy reality TV this weekend, because all this real reality is really bringing me down.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

It's late and I'm exhausted, but I just wanted to post this before I get my beauty sleep.

First South Dakota, now this: Tennessee could be the next state to make abortion illegal. Are they all going to fall like dominoes?

One of my colleagues had her human sexuality students write a brief reaction paper on a movie they watched (about abortion.) One student (male) wrote:

Anyone who gets an abortion or performs an abortion should be hanged. It is murder and should be treated as such.

Don't you love the irony of the Pro-Lifers?

Hell, I don't think I'm going to sleep at all . . . I'm going to have nightmares because this country has become very, very scary.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Holy Trainwreck, Batman!

I just finished my Public Health Practice midterm and it was not pretty.

But this is not about that (yet, anyway.) This is about a show I saw on Sunday night (correlation between watching stinky show and possible bad grade on midterm? I think so.) and I just have to say, What. the. Fuck. is wrong with some people?

I watch too much television. I know this. I am not proud of this. I also watch really, really bad television. I get sucked into a trainwreck of a show and suddenly, three hours later, I'm wondering why all my papers aren't graded. But I digress.

Has anyone seen the WE network show called "The Secret Lives of Women?" I promise I won't mock you if you admit it. For those legitimate "non-watchers" and those of you still in the closet, here's the premise: Supposedly "normal" people can have crazy, shocking secrets! Even women - wait, especially women! But you know what? I'm not so sure that anybody on this show would qualify as normal. Even at the "supposedly" level.

Sunday night was about women whose "secret" was "I'm addicted to plastic surgery." Uh, honey, I hate to tell ya, but I can spot your "secret" at 20 paces.

One woman's face (she was 71 years old) looked like she was born with a severe facial deformity. And while trying to find a picture of this woman (I couldn't) I had a lot of fun at Awful Plastic Surgery. The pictures aren't for the faint of heart. But the titles for each entry? Pure freaking genius. Behold: Burt Reynolds: No, he's not Asian, he's got a bad face lift. And I learned a new word: Trout pout. Collagen lip injections gone wrong. I love it. Love. I'm going to try to incorporate it into at least one conversation every day. Not sure how that will go without looking like I have "celebrity Tourette's" - Me: And so class, let us remember that the pituitary gland is not in the anal regi - PAMELA ANDERSON LEE HAS TROUT POUT! Class: Wha? Teacher Lady, you so crazy.

Anyway. I truly did feel sorry for this 71-year-old woman. Tragically, she was a knockout when she was young, got divorced when she was 34, boarded the plastic surgery train and took a one-way trip to Crazyland.

But the real horror to me was a woman who should be wearing a crown and a sash that reads, "World's Most Selfish Manipulative Bitch" and her husband should be well, not sure yet. Maybe wearing a T-shirt that says, "I'm a recovering enabler" or "Please just kill me now." Don't know her age - don't remember her name - do know she had two kids and a gorgeous house in the SoCal region in the Redwood Forest. She had had so many plastic surgeries that she and her family were in crazy debt, they had NO savings, and she wanted another "touch up" that cost $55,000. But the thing that I found so fascinating (like an evil genius, but really, truly evil) was the way she manipulated her husband! They showed a clip of this conversation and it went something like this:

Plastic-Surgery-Addict-Bitch: I need this surgery.
Poor-Misguided-Spineless Husband: What for, honey? I think you look great.
PSAB: I don't feel comfortable with myself.
PMSH: I can understand and appreciate that but how do you suggest we pay for it?
PSAB: We'll have to just do something. Put it on a credit card, finance it, I don't know.
PMSH: Let me get this straight (while thinking, "Is suicide my only option? How did one night at a bar in L.A. turn out like this?"), we have no savings, the kids have no college fund, we're in a tremendous amount of debt, but you have to get this surgery.
PSAB: (Here's the scary evil-genius part, so pay attention!) How can you want me to feel bad about myself? I'm so uncomfortable with my body looking the way it does right now. Do you want me to be uncomfortable?

Now I can say that the question "Do you want me to be uncomfortable?" is a direct quote. And she used it. A lot. And the way she said it was so bizarre because for the first 50 times she said it, I almost forgot she was a total nutjob and actually kept thinking she was talking about a bad rash or something. I just had this mental image of a person with really bad poison ivy everywhere. When I say, "I'm uncomfortable," I'm usually talking about pantyhose that have that waistband-rolling-down-thing (which is why I avoid any endeavor that requires pantyhose.) Or heartburn because I inhaled a pizza. Or I had 27 glasses of water and am miles from even a disgusting public bathroom.

At the end of the show they do those little 20-30 second "summaries" like, "Erica loves her new breast implants and says this is her last plastic surgery ever. This year. In the spring." And Plastic Surgery Addict Bitch? Her family sold their house (to the tune of 1.something million dollars, of course) to pay off their debt and cover her "I can't believe you want me to be uncomfortable" additional $55,000 surgery!!

This is why I watch this shit. 'Cause compared to her, I am so normal. Aah, mocking others and their problems to make myself feel better. Works every time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

You Better Look the Hell Out

Mercury is in Retrograde. Wait, wait, come back!!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn't used to believe in Mercury retrograde having any effect on my life. Until a retrograde day in 2000. In one day, I:
  • Got the "I Love You" virus (Anybody remember that day? It was a bad day)
  • Spilled a cup of coffee all over some "storyboards"
  • Sat in a chocolate bar (while wearing a beige suit, of course)
  • Went to the hair dresser who convinced me to get a "body wave" and THEN?
  • Literally poked me in the eye, dislodging my contact lens, which then flew (my contact lens, not my eye) into a pile of hair on the floor. Although that would give the phrase "hairy eyeball" new meaning.

And then the very next (also Mercury retrograde) day I:

  • Cried and contemplated calling in sick to work (because of disastrous body wave), and
  • Wore two different shoes to work. Not on purpose. One black, one blue. The irony here? I didn't even notice until about, oh, 10:00 a.m. when I thought I was developing a slight limp and started wondering if I was finally inheriting my genetic legacy - osteoporosis, at age 29, and looked down and lo and behold, one shoe with a one inch heel, and one shoe with a three inch heel. And I was NOT drunk. I swear. It was just that kind of work environment, and I was just that crazy-distracted-busy. (Duh.)

So, I now know that Mercury is associated with all kinds of "communications" havoc. You're supposed to back up your files, watch out for personal misunderstandings, expect e-mails and faxes to mysteriously never arrive, etc., (Hell, look what happened to poor Amalah.)

But I've decided that Mercury retrograde just means all general hell breaks loose. And do you know how I know that? This weekend, I ran out of my expensive, please keep me fake blonde shampoo and was traumatized because my salon had already closed for the weekend and my husband suggested I use "Pert." And this irritated me greatly. Although I do not know why. Maybe because we don't have any Pert in the house and do they even make that shit anymore? And, even more indicative of Mercury-retrograde shenanigans, I have to teach tomorrow AND give a presentation in my qualitative class and seriously? I have a "blemish" (I'll be ladylike for one second) that looks like a fucking tumor. There is no covering this baby up. It is protruding from my chin, and boy, oh, boy, small children could take shade under it. I'm 35 years old. If that's not a bad cosmic joke gone wrong, I don't know what is.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

This is What Fear Looks Like

When you rescue a dog who has multiple "issues" you spend a lot of money. And you get a lot of photo ops. Here, we have the Biting Wonderdog who is SO freaked out by our ripping out the hideous kitchen wallpaper (downstairs) that she actually climbed into a full laundry basket. (Or maybe she's just been freaked out by the hideous wallpaper for so long and she finally found a way to tell us that she too, hated it.) This is a new trick for her. This is a dog who will not even go up or down steps if there is a chance someone will carry her. She has never really grasped the concept of "fetch." An extremely expensive trainer told me early on in our relationship (mine and BWD's - that trainer and I never got past that first intake process because I couldn't afford more than that) that BWD was "socially retarded and had no sense of humor." She must have been scared out of her little lemon-shaped brain. Also note - underneath just the top layer of laundry is a Human Sexuality textbook. She seemed to enjoy standing on it.

It was the Worst of Times

What do you do when you have blatant homophobia and ignorance staring you in the face? Personally, I blog about it. Years ago, I thought all crazy college kids were just way-out-radical-liberal. Surprisingly, this is not true. Lately, more and more college kids have caught the Jesus Fever (not to be confused with the Avian flu - symptoms are similar, but Avian flu makes you want to eat crumbs and garbage.)

Every semester, I get a wee bit scared when I have to review the chapter on sexual orientation. It's like, well, I can't think of a good analogy. You know that no matter how unpredictable or scary a rollercoaster ride is, it will likely end (eventually) and you will still be alive. Maybe it's like parenthood? (I don't know, I'm just guessing) When it's over, you could be the proud parent of the genius who invented the AIDS vaccine, or you could be the woman at the trial of the century who leaves and enters the courtroom with an acrylic cardigan covering your head to protect your identity from the media and so the gals at the lunch meat counter don't recognize you.

Anyway. Typically, I will ask the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender student organization to send in a panel of students to speak to my class. If it's uncomfortable for my students, it's the longest hour and fifteen minutes of the semester for me. I just keep waiting, watching, wondering if I should have packed a weapon, called for backup, whatever. Will I be on the news tonight?

Last semester, I had the teeniest, tiniest, cutest little Jesus gal student you ever did see. Seriously. She reminded me of Stacy Q. She might have been five feet tall. I don't think she weighed more than 80 pounds. And probably 5 of those were hair. She was an art major, so I mistakenly gave her credit for being open-minded. I should have guessed that things were headed down a dangerous path when she informed me (the first night of class) that she would be at least 20 minutes late to every class because she had to commute from work. It wasn't the distance, or the traffic, or anything like that; she had to stop at her parents' house on the way to campus so she could eat a nice hot meal. I had already informed the class that because of the unusual time of our class (dinner time, basically), they were all welcome to bring food to enjoy in class. They were welcome to bring fruit, granola bars, whatever. I did advise against pepperoni pizzas and open-face roast beef sandwiches, however. Stacy Q.-Jesus-girl didn't want to do this. Whatever. So, she's a PITA from the get-go.

The night of the LGBT panel, she approaches me after class in tears and asks if she can talk with me "in private." I guessed she was going to come out to me, and boy, was I wrong! She wanted to tell me that it was very difficult for her not to leave the class (I guess she wanted an award? Other than the PITA, I mean) because she is a Christian. And she does not believe in THAT. And then she started openly weeping and said, "I know that you probably believe that gay people are born that way, but I know that Jesus would not do that to anyone. How could Jesus create people that are made wrong and know that by making them that way he will subject them to a life of suffering? I refuse to believe that Jesus would do that, so that's how I know these people choose this. Usually because something bad happened to them in childhood."

Um, I'm sorry. What? Seriously. What the fuck are you talking about? Where does this girl live? Geographically, metaphorically, the whole thing. Under a rock? In a brown paper bag? In a world with no televisions, movie theatres, newspapers, Internet, radio or magazines? Hey, maybe it's just me bein' crazy, but aren't, I don't know, BABIES born with Cystic Fibrosis and Spina Bifida and all kinds of other birth defects we rarely hear about like all the damn time? Wouldn't these children and their families typically suffer? I just don't get it. I guess she lives in a world where nobody is born with any problems or "defects" (I'm not comparing homosexuality to a birth defect, by the way - hence, the quotation marks) that would cause any suffering. How nice for her. And also, when can I move there?

Friday, March 03, 2006


Right on the heels of Liberal Banana's rant about this little Florida town, I see this article on Yahoo! News with a priceless quote:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan, who is helping to bankroll the birth of a Florida town and university, backtracked Friday from comments that he'd like the community to be governed by strict Roman Catholic principles. His ideas about barring pornography and birth control, he said, apply only to the Catholic university. "There are a lot of misconceptions," Monaghan said Friday.

Hell, if you're going to be all "we don't use birth control" there will be a lot of misconceptions. Thousands, I'm guessing. Hundreds of them at the university alone. That's okay, though. Them women don't need no learnin'. Their job is to be birthin' the babies.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It was the Best of Times

My apologies to Charles Dickens.

Today, we discussed Chapter 9: Sexual Behavior. This is the particular day that students cannot wait for, also known as: Sexual Positions Day. I have two okay books I bring to class with me. One is just not very professional at all (see picture above - by the way, can I get arrested for copyright infringement?) but it sure does make the kids giggle and kind of loosens things up before I have to start saying words like "fellatio" and "cunnilingus." Before I show them the Position of the Day Playbook (the silly one), I have the students write M for male, or F for female on the top of a small index card and then write their favorite sexual position. Don't want to assume all college students are sexually active, so I say "And if you've never had sex, write down what position you think you'd like." It's sort of a very unscientific experiment; typically the women write missionary position or "woman on top" (although this semester, "reverse cowgirl" sure got a lot of votes) and the men write, inevitably, "doggie style." This semester proved to be a little different. I got one card from a female that went a little like this: "I like the position of man on top, but I like him to lean back somewhat on his knees, and I can bend my legs really far back and then I like for him to also grab my feet, while I close my legs together." This went on for about another paragraph (I'm not kidding) and had the class in hysterics. All I could think to say was, "Well, here's a woman who knows what she wants. Good for her." Next, from a gentleman (I use the term loosely), "Dogy style (note misspelling), because I love smackin' that ass." Excellent. Sometimes this class takes unexpected turns and I think to myself, "Why, exactly, did I think this was a good idea?" And then, my personal favorite. Picture it: You've got approximately 50 college students staring at you, waiting for you to read a peer's index card and perhaps say something educational. I read this card and just start laughing. Tears. I was speechless. It happens more often than I'd like to admit, but still doesn't happen that often. The students are literally on the edges of their seats and I have to admit to them, "I don't know what this one is." And I didn't. A male student wrote that his favorite position was:
The Flying Mango.