Today’s featured image is not my dog, it is the windblown face of Mallory Ortberg, my heart’s desire, who has been away for AGES. We usually talk on the phone about three times a day, and now we’re settling for FaceTiming once a day from her hotel room, and I honestly cannot go on?
Q. No laughing matter: I’ve known Bobby since we were kids, and since we’re the only two people from our small town at our college, we hang out a lot. Bobby has a major crush on my roommate. She wants nothing to do with him. Last week while I was out of our room Bobby exposed his penis to her. He claims it was a prank, and to be fair, he’s been doing this for most of our lives. Our friends and I think it’s hilarious, but she’s pissed. She’s making a fuss with our resident adviser, and I think she wants Bobby to get in serious trouble. If she keeps pushing, Bobby could lose his scholarship and be forced to leave college. I sympathize with her situation but worry the punishment will outweigh the crime. What should I do when I speak to university officials?
A: It’s fine that you think it was funny, but because Bobby didn’t show his dick to you, your sense of humor or how long you’ve known him should have no weight on the outcome. “I’ve known Bobby a long time” is not an answer to “should Bobby get in trouble for exposing himself to women?”
I have not been able to stop thinking about those twin protests — “but, good intentions!” and “the benefit of the doubt” — and what they really mean. Who usually gets the benefit of the doubt? Who is expected to grant it?
A few weeks ago I was in a discussion about anti-racist parenting, and at one point a white parent asked how they were supposed to keep their kids from developing a low opinion of people of color if they’d had “bad experiences” with them. They told a longish story about two boys at their child’s school who sometimes flout authority or are mean to the white kids. They don’t listen to the teachers who try and tell them to stop, because they don’t respect women in their culture. I pointed out that there is no culture that universally respects women, and that whatever good intentions they might possess, they were still thinking of literally two children as representative of an entire group of people. They couldn’t even manage to look at two kids and see them as individuals. And their own child was probably picking up on this, and doing the same generalizing and stereotyping.
So much for the benefit of the doubt.
In case you need to debunk the fake Irish People Were Slaves Too memes that pop up everywhere, Liam Hogan is On It:
Those that promote the meme of Irish perpetual hereditary chattel slavery use a variety of images entirely unrelated to indentured servitude to accompany their anti-history. I examined a selection of them.
With her loyalty to the stage, and her six Tony Awards, McDonald has, over the 22 years since Carousel opened, been the inescapable face of that change. This is partly because she is Broadway’s greatest star singer, possibly ever — and I say that at a wonderful moment when the likes of Kelli O’Hara, Idina Menzel, and Kristin Chenoweth are also performing at the top of their respective forms. (Each of the four has a completely different kind of voice.) The combination of innate beauty, invisible technique, broad expressiveness, and dogged stamina — McDonald recently completed a 13-month, 63-city concert tour on three continents — means that her voice functions as one with her acting; her singing makes emotion audible in the same way a blush makes it visible.
But her prominence as the face of a changing Broadway is also the result of the way motherhood — her daughter, Zoe, is now 15 — has made her feel responsible to more than just her own artistry. What you use your voice for, other than tweets about gay marriage and homeless kids and moronic politicians, is a new question she worries about. She took on Shuffle Along not only for the chance to work with Wolfe (and a jaw-dropping assortment of other black stars, including Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter) but to honor her cultural antecedents. Without dislodging Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand from her girlhood pantheon, performers like Billie Holiday and Lena Horne — and now, in Shuffle Along, Lottie Gee — have come to the fore, as much for their talent as their nerve. Accepting her most recent Tony, for playing Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, she saluted a list of black artists who “deserved so much more than you were given when you were on this planet.”
I think we should all read some Barbara Comyns:
Spoons carries a disclaimer on its imprint page: “The only things that are true in this story are the wedding and Chapters 10, 11 and 12 and the poverty.” The three chapters singled out are those that depict the labour and birth of Sophia’s first child, Sandro, a house of horrors-like depiction of a public hospital, Sophia’s experience of which is one of “shame and pain” as she’s shuttled from one “torture chamber” to another by unkind nurses and disinterested doctors. Although the most sustained and explicit example, this isn’t the only occasion Comyns writes about the harsh realities of the more unpleasant – not to mention often ignored – elements of being a woman. In A Touch of Mistletoe (1967) we’re allowed a sneak peak into this hidden world. The young heroine Vicky gets a job as a salesgirl in a London jewellry shop for a period. While she and the other female employees sustain a certain level of decorum and reserve during trading hours, after they’ve kicked their high heels off and are changing the window displays after hours, a more forthright camaraderie is revealed that focuses around a particular sort of female conversation: “a considerable amount of sexy talk used to go on, mostly old wives’ tales about young brides who had had their nightgowns torn to shreds on their wedding night, childbirth and abortions, monster babies and the almost mystic horrors of the change of life.” Like her predecessor Sophia in Spoons – in many ways there are striking similarities between the two novels, both heroines making bad marriages and suffering poverty in bohemian London, though Mistletoe features a much more complex plot, and covers a much longer period in its heroine’s life – Vicky is an unworldly innocent. The other women call her “naïve” and take great glee in shocking her with all manner of “fresh horrors” including gory tales of “hermaphrodites, V.D. and falling wombs.”
Here are some stories of wonderful high school teachers who DIDN’T prey on their students:
After being summarily kicked out of my senior year advanced placement English class after all of two days for refusing to do several thousand grammar exercises as a get-to-know-me assignment by Ms. Fried Blonde Hair From the East Coast, I found myself under the tutelage of the gifted and loving Ms. Zita Prater, a wonderful teacher of twelfth-grade English Composition. And although my memories of high school are one long colorful acid-induced blur complete with hallucinations of dolphins swimming the aqua blue linoleum halls of the godforsaken racist-ass high school I attended in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, and I am not able to provide a synopsis of the actual curriculum and reading that Ms. Prater taught and assigned, I do remember a lively in-class discussion of The Iliad led with genuine joy and excitement for the source material by Ms. Prater.
Near the end of the school year—my final days in high school—as I tumbled and peaked, continuing my self-education in the Yaqui way of knowledge from my seat in the back row, I remember realizing that Ms. Prater was an unapologetically good person not filled with a hair of judgment.
My daughter splits her time between preschool and therapies and sitters, and my son has a handful of sitters, two of whom just had to quit for unrelated reasons (illness, got a real job), so we’re making our favourite sitter full-time and putting her on the books (which is important, and not as hard as you might fear!) so I guess I have a nanny now? It feels so weird to say that, from a class perspective, because growing up working-class in Canada, only the OLIGARCHS had NANNIES (also, we had better and cheaper daycare, so), but here we are!
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.