Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chatting about Birds, Bees & Church Trailer Thieves

My friend Ginger* in DC hosts a book club, and this month they read my book Birds, Bees, and Church Trailer Thieves. So Monday night I used Skype to join their club and answer questions about the book. It was a lot of fun!
In the course of the conversation, I mentioned the memoir I'm working on. They asked me the topic and, after a moment's consideration, I told them it dealt with my journey through dyspareunia (painful sex). This elicited the astute follow up question about my husband: how does he feel about me writing this memoir? While writing a memoir always involves consideration of those mentioned in it, my topic is definitely a sensitive one. My husband is very gracious, and likes to joke about the memoir, but that's pretty easy to do, given that we have a (excuse the pun) happy ending. And although he doesn't know it yet, as I write this I'm discovering that it deals far more extensively with my own spiritual struggles than my relationship with him.

My memoir aside, I believe that the question of our husbands and partners is one most women with dyspareunia struggle with. There's always the issue of confidentiality: is it really fair to our men to share our problems with others? Will it cause them to be viewed as weak or inferior? It shouldn't. I certainly don't look down on a woman if her partner deals with impotence. Yet, I suspect that partners of impotent men keep that secret just as assiduously as women with dyspareunia guard their secret. Is it just that our society is deeply uncomfortable with sexual problems? Or is this more rooted in gender conceptions and sexism? IE, is a woman with a sexual problem considered more "broken" than a man with a sexual problem? Certainly Botox (a common treatment for vaginismus) isn't running ads with couples in bathtubs smiling, but Cialis and Viagra ads are ubiquitous. Another point: men who are impotent are rarely (if ever) told that they just need to "relax" because the problem is psychological. Is this simply because there is a drug for this issue? Or is this because our society expects men to perform with enjoyment and women to receive without complaint?

* If you're ever in the DC area, book a massage with Ginger at Body, Mind and Sole. You'll thank me for it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reading through Journals

I've spent the last few weeks reviewing my journals. I'm working on my memoir, and a crucial part of that is my own words at the time, so I've been skimming all my old journals, dog earing the relevant entries. Then I transfer them into my memoir rough draft on the computer.
It's an interesting process. Quite often, I observe how my writing process brings me to serenity. Over and over I start out wailing and end up whispering.
This is perhaps why I have journaled much less since starting my Lexapro. My anxiety is now at a normal level. Of course, another factor is undoubtedly the fact that the huge issue I dealt with for so many years is now resolved.
Words are powerful, especially our own.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Mom Transition

I spent time today cleaning up the nursery. One of the tasks was to clean up my collection of stuffed animals that Clementine will inherit. So I sat down with a washcloth and commenced scrubbing. It was a transitional moment for me.
As a fiction writer, I have a vivid imagination. So if I'm handling a stuffed animal, I treat it like a real animal. No apologies here for that! But when I sat on the floor and started cleaning, I didn't treat them like real animals. I treated them like dirty pillows. And I realized, that's me thinking like a mom.
I'm not worried that being a mom will hamper my imagination. It's just interesting to observe these gradual changes in my thought process as I prepare to take on a totally new role. I anticipate that being a mother will enrich my writing in all sorts of ways.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

circumcision and other medical decisions

The Washington Post has an interesting set of opinion pieces about San Francisco's upcoming ballot initiative to ban circumcision. The opposing arguments can basically be summed up as follows:
1. Banning circumcision is blatant anti-Semitism. Oh, and it's also anti-Muslim.
2. Banning circumcision violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
1. The infant is not able to give consent to circumcision.
2. The practice has no benefit and is comparable to female genital mutilation.

My thoughts: First of all, anyone who thinks circumcision is comparable to FGM doesn't really know much about either practice. Circumcision occurs in sterile conditions, is practiced by professionals, performed within a month of birth, involves removing a small piece of skin, and does not result in permanent damage (of course there is always an exception). FGM occurs in all kinds of conditions, sterile and filthy, is practiced by a random assortment of people licensed and unlicensed, performed at puberty without anesthesia, involves direct removal of portions of the clitoris and minor labia, and very often results in permanent damage. In addition, at least 2 types of FGM require further "surgery" to allow for sex and childbirth, when the sutured major labia are cut open with a knife to allow vaginal access. No circumcised male EVER needs further surgery to have sex. The ONLY similarity between circumcision and FGM is that the end result is surgically modified genitals.

My second thought is about vaccinations. People are allowed to refuse vaccinations for their children. This refusal is a public health threat and can be disastrous for the child's health. (Just check on the long term effects of measles, mumps and rubella). Further, this refusal is not based on any religious grounds - it's based, in large part, on a set of studies that have been proven false. One could easily argue that the decision to vaccinate has a much greater impact on a child and on public health than the decision to circumcise. So why is the religious decision to circumcise being persecuted if the decision to avoid vaccinations completely is protected?

What are your thoughts? Is circumcision a valuable religious practice or an outdated ritual that needlessly mutilates the penis? Why should it be banned, or not banned? What about infant ear piercing? Is it comparable? After all, it's an unnecessary procedure done without the infant's consent that isn't reversible...

Female Chauvinist Pigs

I just finished reading an excellent book about feminism called Female Chauvinist Pigs. In the book, Ariel Levy takes a look at the feminist movement and the current culture of raunch that devalues women and yet is used as an example of feminism in action.
It was a very good read, eye-opening in some respects, and I think an important read. I am very uncomfortable with porn, stripping, and our culture's continued objectification of women, and I have big trouble with people who defend this by saying it's an extension of feminism. This book gave me the arguments I need to explain my position. I'm definitely going to re-read it.